my company is really into personality tests, I hate my headshot, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My company is really into personality tests

My company is really into personality and aptitude tests, mainly as a means of determining how employees like to work and how they communicate. My results on these tests are always inconclusive or right in the middle. I don’t have strong opinions on work and I can get along with almost anyone. I’m really boring: I just want to work with pleasant people and do my best.

My boss is into mentoring and coaching and has asked me a few times what my goals are. I don’t really have any, other than to continue working for good companies. I will and can do almost any kind of work — it doesn’t matter to me. I’m lucky in that I have a variety of skills and excel in a lot of areas.

My colleagues and boss seem continually disappointed by my lack of preferences when we have team building meetings and talk about our goals and ideal work situations. The thing is, I had a really hard beginning in life and serious mental health struggles that almost killed me. I am just grateful to be healthy and have a good job with nice people. I’m not comfortable sharing this, so I guess I come off as indecisive and unambitious. I’m also not passionate about traditional “work.” I like arts and music and that’s what I busy myself with in my spare time.

What should I tell my boss the next time this comes up? Should I try to fake the next test?

How many of these tests is your company having you take? One isn’t a big deal, but it sounds like they’re doing tons of them. So for the record, that’s odd and a pretty questionable use of time and energy.

I don’t think you should try to fake the next one, particularly since it sounds like past tests have already established you as pretty middle-of-the-road on the various measures they’re using. But I do think that you should try to come up with some professional goals to share with your boss, even if they’re just things like “really master software X” or “take on more responsibility in area Y” or “continue to be a helpful resource to our team by doing Z.”

Depending on what kind of rapport you have with your boss, it also might make sense to say something like, “I’m really happy in my job currently. I get the sense that you’re looking for me to have a more developed professional plan but really, as long as the company is happy to have me in my role, I’m happy to be here. I know that’s not everyone’s approach, but it’s mine. In fact, if we’re talking what ‘types’ we are, this is my type. I hope that’s not an obstacle to me succeeding here.”

There are some jobs where the expectation is that you’ll move onward and upward pretty quickly and sticking around in the same role isn’t really done. And if you’re in one of them, it’ll be good to get that out on the table. But my hunch is that you just have a boss who’s letting her personal interest in all this stuff take over too much (and so framing it as this being your “type” might be helpful).

2. My worker posted religious materials saying the rest of us are heathens

I have a colleague, Birdy, who is a Jehovah’s Witness. Most of the time, it never comes up, though people know because she doesn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays, and she was once asked to take down the Watchtower material she had prominently posted in her cube (didn’t bother me but it bothered others). She recently posted a full-page print-out in her cubicle about why her religion doesn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays, how they have pagan origins, how they offend God (therefore so do those of us who celebrate them because we’re uneducated heathens), etc.

I’m agnostic, so I kind of chuckle-shrugged, but my other colleague, Kitty, who has had run-ins with Birdy over this before, was ready to go to HR about it. We aren’t supposed to post religious stuff at our desks. We don’t decorate desks for birthdays, either, though that’s not an official policy, and we always make sure Birdy never receives the cards we pass around to sign for the birthday person. So there’s no overt showing of birthday celebrating going on, but if Birdy feels offended, then that’s how she feels. She does participate in department snack days that are not holiday-related (when a colleague had a housewarming, or when the Cubs won the World Series, things like that).

I guess my question is, is anyone wrong here? I don’t want to see Kitty overreact, and I don’t want to see Birdy unfairly persecuted.

Yeah, I’d say that posting materials about how your coworkers are heathens isn’t a great thing to do. (Of course, that’s if you’re being literal about what “we’re uneducated heathens” part. If it’s more explanatory rather than accusatory, that changes things.)

And if you’re not supposed to post religious materials at your desks, it’s a pretty flagrant violation of that policy.

That said, it’s possible that she posted it in response to comments she’s been getting, who knows.

But your office has a policy about it, so I’d just let your manager or HR sort it out.

3. I hate my headshot

I want to apologize in advance for this possibily being the most petty question you’ve ever gotten, but… The firm I work for is redoing their website, and for the first time, project manager level employees (including me) will have pics and bios viewable by the public.

The firm engaged a professional photographer to take our pictures, and mine are pretty bad. I asked Marketing if they could not use the picture of me at all, or allow me to substitute my own professionally taken headshot. They seemed pretty upset and haven’t gotten back to me.

If this were an internal directory pic or a security badge photo that no one would ever see, I’d shrug it off and move on. But this is a public facing site, with my name, and will probably show up pretty high in Google results, so … I feel like I’m not out of line?

My husband tells me I’m making a fuss over nothing and to let it go before I cause problems for myself. (For what it’s worth, I’ve worked here for years, am a known performer, and have some political capital to spend on this, if I choose.) I know that they technically can do whatever they want with the website, and the picture, but I’d be happier with no photo than a bad one. I guess my question is, how far can I push this before I get into “unreasonable” territory?

I don’t think this is especially petty! Most people wouldn’t want a bad photo of themselves put online. It’s weird that your Marketing people are upset by this. I mean, they might ultimately tell you no because they want all the photos to look uniform (same background, same lighting, and so forth), but you’re not being unreasonable to ask and they are being unreasonable in getting upset.

If you already have a professional headshot, I’d just forward that to them now and ask if it will work as a replacement.

4. My phone wouldn’t let me call a recruiter back

I had a phone call scheduled with a recruiter today. They called a few minutes late, and I missed the pickup (definitely a mistake but hopefully not the end of the world). Then I tried to call them back immediately, but the phone wouldn’t let me! They had called on a blocked number. Perhaps a landline would have let me, but my smart phone greyed out the button where I usually tap a recent call to return dial.

I politely asked the recruiter via email to call again, which she did. I explained (very briefly) that I was unable to return her call, and she seemed surprised — that had never happened to her. Then we moved on.

Afterwards, I double checked my phone, took screenshots, and looked up the issue. It seems well established that smart phones are unable to call blocked numbers, and I surmise the company used blocked numbers on purpose. My guess is that the HR staffer was simply unaware of this feature.

As I write a thank-you follow-up email, should I mention this at all? Part of me wants to send her screenshot proof that the button was greyed out. I don’t want her to think I fibbed. And this knowledge may be helpful to her later, if she is calling strangers all day, in some possible scenario? But I also know that doing so may come off as obsessive and silly.

No, don’t bring it up again. To the recruiter, this is almost certainly a small detail that she’s already stopped thinking about. It’s very unlikely that she thinks you lied (why would you?). If you send screenshots, it’s going to look oddly defensive or just oddly focused on something she doesn’t care about. You explained it and you moved on, and you don’t need to bring it up again.

5. Mentioning my kids as part of my experience

I understand that it’s typically a no-no to mention one’s children in a resume or cover letter. However, there is a job for which I am applying that lists “experience working with high school students” as a preferred qualification. I have a daughter who is a junior in high school (and another who will be a freshman in the fall), so I definitely have experience with high school students. Would it be appropriate to mention this in a cover letter, or should I wait until an interview?

No, I wouldn’t mention that. They really mean “professional experience working with high school students,” not having your own kids, and you risk coming across as a little naive.

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Recruit-o-rama*

    #4- no, don’t bring it up. Technology happens to everyone. I have at least one phone related tech weirdo thing happen every week because I talk to at least 30 people everyday. It barely blips my radar, just move on, the recruiter has, I promise you.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Definitely agreed. I would find it really strange for someone to send a thank you note that has photos of their screen “proving” they couldn’t call me back attached to it. First, because what do those photos have to do with saying “thank you”? And second, because I can guarantee you I’ve stopped thinking about it and will start wondering why you’re being weirdly defensive about it when I’ve already let it go.

      It just makes it look like you’re worrying about the wrong things (or at least not worrying baout the things that matter to me as a recruiter). Make like Elsa and let it go, OP.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I feel for OP here. (For me there’s some family of origin stuff that means it’s a bit challenging if someone seemingly disbelieves me and I don’t get the chance to defend myself. It takes a conscious effort to take a deep breath and move on.)

        You handled this really well though and it’s okay to let it go.

        1. Mookie*

          I hear you on your parenthetical remark about feeling compelled to correct misapprehensions in an effort to salvage/control your identity. That’s a really difficult habit to break and, as you say, all the more difficult when it stems from a gaslight-y childhood or adolescence (a foreign country where children don’t always have the clout to defend themselves from unjust accusations or are punished for doing so).

          LW, you’re fine. You’re treating this conscientiously, but you don’t need to: you didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t have to provide ‘proof’ of a random and now inconsequential glitch.

        2. Turquoise Cow*

          That’s a thing that I sometimes do, too – feel the need to explain or defend myself. I only just now realized it.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I once had a phone interview scheduled with an international applicant, and the only contact info I had for said applicant was a phone number. So of course that was the day our entire phone system decided to refuse to make international calls. I had to email the recruiter and ask her to pass along my PROFUSE apologies and reschedule with the applicant.

      Phones. *shrug*

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      1 glitch every 150 calls seems on the low end to me. You must be very good at getting things to work right, Recruit-o-rama. I seem to average more like 1 in 10.

      1. Recruit-o-rama*

        Ha! Never looked at it that way, now I feel lucky!! Phones are just weird, I roll with it.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      They probably purposely call from an unknown number so candidates don’t keep calling to check status afterward? But at the same time, a candidate should at least be given the main number to the company (if not published anywhere) once they’re having conversations, just in case things like this happen, then the candidate can at least leave a message with someone or be put into voicemail (in addition to emailing, but the hiring manager might not see that right away).

  2. caledonia*

    #5 – I see this quite a bit in my job and they mean volunteering or working with that age range. They don’t mean your children specifically – that’s parenting.

    Unless you have volunteered or worked with teens because of your children on a (most likely) regular basis, leave them out of it.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh please oh please oh please don’t mention your children, OP#5.

      Mentioning your kids provides the reader with literally zero information about your professional experience, ability to work with children who are not your progeny, philosophy on relating to young people, etc. It also raises the uncomfortable idea that you think it’s ok to treat children/young people as if they were your kids, which indicates a real lack of boundaries and poor judgment with respect to your approach. I’m not saying this to accuse you of doing any of that, OP—just clarifying why mentioning your kids looks naive at best.

      1. Kj*

        Yep. My field gets a lot of second career folks- many of whom have children of their own. We also work with kids. Some of our interns who have kids have this tendacy to ‘mom’ our clients and it comes across as inappropriate and intrusive. I actually used to not comment on this tendacy in interns, as I assumed it would wear off when they started stepping into a more professional role and got comfortable with their new way of relating to kids. Sadly, I’ve noticed that that never happens- once they start to ‘mom’ they do not stop. So now I comment on the tendacy when I see it. It helps a little.

        Oh, and before some one jumps on me for being sexist, we have very, very few male interns and none have been dads.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      You could think of it this way: I’ve volunteered with high school age kids, but that doesn’t mean I have experience of parenting them. That works in both directions.

      You can draw on your own experience – it’s just not something a recruiter will want to hear about.

      1. Turquoise Cow*

        Very good point, and I agree. Experience being a babysitter or daycare worker or teacher is totally different from parenting on so many levels. While some of the skills transfer, it’s not enough to make an interviewer consider an applicant favorably if all they have on their resume is their own children.

      2. snackster*

        As a parent of two teenagers, I would completely agree with this. I have discipline techniques at my disposal that I would not be able to use on children at large. Scrub baseboards? Yes for my children, not for kids that I coach. Although, I have been very surprised at how many times I’ve encountered a 20 something teacher that thinks that because she teaches teenagers during the day that it is equivalent to parenting. No thanks, keep your “parenting advice” to yourself, and I will let you handle the teaching side.

        1. Koko*

          It’s like how having a roommate with a dog will make you pretty darn familiar with dogs and their routines and needs, but having familiarity with those things is totally different from being responsible for a dog of your own. Knowing how to do something in theory because you’ve watched other people do it is quite different from being able to actually do it yourself.

    3. Undine*

      OP, I understand the temptation to claim your life experience, but you wouldn’t want it to be treated professionally. Imagine if they started asking you in detail about whether your children had ever bullied someone & how you had dealt with it, or how you respond when your child is suicidal, or mistakes you had made, or whether you had ever had to refer something to the authorities — and do you have references from someone unrelated to you? (It would probably be illegal if they tried.) You don’t treat your family like a business and you can’t ask a business to treat your family that way.

      1. Doodle*

        I hadn’t thought of this, but it makes a ton of sense. I’m in a high-school student adjacent field, and my interviews have always included questions along these lines — a parent who hadn’t worked with teens professionally definitely couldn’t answer them without serious privacy issues for their kids.

        Questions I’ve been asked (including the suicidal and bullying ones above):
        – How have you helped teens struggling with… sexuality, eating disorders, depression, rejection from their parents?
        – How do you maintain the privacy of the students you work with?
        – Give some examples of times where you’ve had to respect professional boundaries with the teens you work with. (This one, in particular, seems impossible to answer for a good reason!)

      2. Bwmn*

        This is so well put. In an early job working on a pediatric tumor study – and one of the questions in the interview was around how I responded to being around children who were dying. Lots of parents work in such a professional situations around terminally ill children, but it’s also one of those situations where the divide between personal and professional is vastly different.

        Depending on the nature of the work with children – there’s likely to be some variation of a question where the response to the personal and professional is not only likely to be different but quite possibly SHOULD be different. And that’s ok – but I think this is where so much of the push back is coming from.

    4. Artemesia*

      Exactly. If you have been a scout leader for one of your kids or something similar that works, but not just the usual parenting stuff. It does run the risk of looking like puffing e.g. pretending attending school is just like work or that being a housewife is the CEO of the household. It will really turn off a lot of people.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I was thinking soccer coach. Something where because you had your own kids, you volunteered to work with a bunch of them, in a situation where you couldn’t pick them and there were a lot of constraints. Being a popular after school hangout wouldn’t count, but coaching an organized rugby team 3 times a week would.

        1. blackcat*


          As a former teacher, I was going to say something similar. There were parents who did A TON for the team I coached, including some who helped out after their kids graduated the school.

          Coaching in a formal, organized way, definitely counts in my book.

      2. Allison*

        Yes, that stuff makes me cringe!

        I feel like I need to tread carefully in discussions like this, lest I dismiss the hard work that parents, especially stay-at-home parents, do for their kids, but at the end of the day, there’s a huge difference between the work done to run a house, and work done for an employer, with people who are not family. At work, you’re accountable to someone other than yourself and your spouse, the scope is generally a lot bigger, and since you’re being paid, you’re generally held to a higher standard.

        1. Jessica*

          Or you’re held to a lower standard than a parent — you’re only with the kids for a limited period of time and not responsible for their every action. (I’m just pointing this out because you said you wanted to tread carefully in discussing this topic. There’s no need to define which job is harder/held to higher standards between parents and people whose job involves supervising children — the point is just that the roles are different, so much so that experience in one role doesn’t necessarily translate to experience in the other role.)

          1. BPT*

            I think though that we’re talking about measurable standards that you’re actually held accountable for. Teachers are measured on how their students do, their behavior in class, their test scores, grades on report cards, etc. Standards for parents that they’re actually measured on are usually just meeting the minimum that don’t get CPS involved – making sure your children aren’t abused, are fed and clothed. Of course most parents go way beyond this, but that isn’t really measured in a formalized way. There are a million different ways to be a good parent (and a lot of ways to be a bad parent that don’t rise to the level of involving child services), but nobody is standing there grading you in a way that you can use in an interview.

      3. Chinook*

        ” If you have been a scout leader for one of your kids or something similar that works, but not just the usual parenting stuff.”

        Exactly. There is a huge difference between working with your children (where you have implied authority and a lifetime of experience of knowing their personalities and buttons) and working with children in a group setting who you don’t know as intimately and where your authority is much more limited.

        As well, your own children almost definitely behave differently in a group setting when you are not around (I have seen this too many times to count) as they try out different versions of who they think they are or want to be. Part of working with teens is dealing with the whiplash effect that comes from seeing a child go from meek and well-behaved to anti-establishmentarian and back. They are less likely to do this with their parents (though it eventually happens) and are more likely to try on a new personality when they are out in the “real world.”

    5. TL -*

      Yes. I’ve done a lot of children’s birthday parties and parents aren’t actually great at helping wrangle large groups of kids, even though a lot of them try to help out. They’re usually excellent at comforting a crying kiddo and good at parenting their kid. But the people who have been actively helpful have almost always been teachers of the same age group.

      1. blackcat*

        “the people who have been actively helpful have almost always been teachers of the same age group”

        Oh this is so true! You need 40 16-year-olds to clean up their sports equipment? I got you! You someone to guide 15 18-year-olds on a week-long camping trip? I can do that!

        You need 10 10-year olds to not die during a couple of hours? I’m gonna struggle with that one.

        There are particular skills to managing groups of people of different ages, and you tend not to need/see those skills until you’re dealing with >5 or 10 people/kids. And while I’ve met some parents of teens with the skills necessary to work with a group of teens, the vast majority don’t. And that’s okay! Being a teacher/coach/etc is WAY different from being a parent. Lots of really wonderful parents are wonderful precisely because they are good with *their* kid (and maybe their kid’s friends, who are likely to be from a similar background).

        So, OP, if you do something formal like serve as assistant coach or a scout master, that’s relevant! But the day to day “I end up with a gaggle of teens at my house all the time and so far no one has died/gotten hurt/vanished” really doesn’t.

        1. Chinook*

          This is exactly why, when I worked as a substitute teacher, I willingly took over, for a month, the grade 7 band class that sent their regular teacher out on stress leave but would only cover grade 1 if the only alternative was to bring in a non-teacher. And, when I did walk into a class of little ones, I always started by pointing out that I was used to working with teens, so they were free to tell me if I was asking too much of them (because I would forget that small kids have the attention spans of gnats)

    6. CM*

      I think you could mention it in an interview as an aside, like, “I have kids this age, and my experience has been…” but not on the resume unless you had an actual job or volunteer position working with teens.

      1. Kim*

        I think this is highly dependent on the position. Initially, I assumed you were talking about a teaching position (in which case, I am an educator and agree with AAM). However, in youth ministry, being a parent could be relevant, as you need to relate well to parents and teens. In fact, I was asked in a kids ministry interview how I would overcome not being a parent (and then they later apologized for the question, acknowledging that it could have been seen as a little discriminatory). While I don’t you should use your children as the biggest or only example, it can actually be a strong point if it’s included briefly and in the right context. The key is to know your field.

    7. misplacedmidwesterner*

      I just hired for some positions that work with teens. And as happens every time, several people mentioned their own kids as their only example of work with you.

      You can only mention your own kids if you coached their sports team/led their troop/etc something that had you working with other non-related kids.

  3. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 2. My worker posted religious materials saying the rest of us are heathens:

    I am a non-practicing Jew. At one of my former jobs, one day a new employee started working in our department. He was a Jehovah’s Witness. When he mentioned this I told him, straight out, that as long as he didn’t inflict his religion on me, we’d get along just fine. He didn’t – and we did. We actually became pretty good friends. We’d go out for lunch together, and hang out after work. Sometimes the topic of religion would come up but never in a manner that indicated he was trying to preach or convert me.

    1. P_R*

      Yes to this. I have a law school classmate who I like, highly respect and get along well with (she’s always incredibly kind and friendly, without seeming “fake”), and I only found out she was a mormon when we friended each other on Facebook and I saw her and her family making subtle comments to that effect. It’s ironic, because knowing that she’s a great person + her respect in not proselytizing intrigued me enough to reconsider my bias against LDS.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this goes for so many things. Living well isn’t merely the best revenge, but the best recruiting tool. For your religion, or diet, or cross-fit trainer.

        1. Allison*

          Absolutely! One of the reasons I considered going to church was because my Christian friends always seemed so happy and full of hope, and it made me think “huh, maybe I’d be in a better place if I started going to church too.”

          1. DevAssist*

            As a Christian, I can say that your friends sound like they are living their faith the right way!

      2. Lily Rowan*

        And this is the problem for people in so many kinds of groups! The ones who don’t make a big inappropriate deal about it are invisible, so you only notice the other ones.

        I’m thinking specifically of vegans, obviously.

        1. zaracat*

          I can’t help but interject with a joke here: “If a vegan does crossfit, what will they talk about first???”

    2. General Ginger*

      I wish that’s how it went every single time! One of my former classmates/coworkers is Mormon with some Catholic extended family, I’m an atheist with Jewish, Russian Orthodox and Catholic family, and the only times it’s come up is when he and I would talk about how it’s influenced our respective upbringings (the spring holidays were a “whose food outranks whose” showdown at Casa Ginger).

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I love this! As a former Mormon, I was very wary when my graduate fellowship cohort included a practicing church member–served a mission, married, had a kid, whole nine yards. But he didn’t try to convert me, or judge me for leaving, and we’ve ended up being pretty good friends.

        1. General Ginger*

          Oh, I’m glad! I know would feel really bummed if a current adherent to a religion I could be practicing, but choose not to, tried to tell me I should come back or was really judgmental about it; probably a lot more so than from a standard “convert to my awesome religion” pitch.

    3. Just another fed*

      Yes, I am Jewish (mostly just culturally) and have a similar story from my own life. I befriended a whole group of Campus Crusade for Christ or “Cru” kids in college (evangelical and most were born-again Christians). I asked early on that they don’t attempt to convert me (as a condition of friendship) and they respected that. I’m still friends with some of them and have good memories of that bunch. I was also the first Jew that many of them had met, so some had questions for me that I tried to answer, but religion didn’t come up much.

      There have also been times with other individuals when I did not set that expectation early on (sometimes because I didn’t know they were evangelical) and I found myself in awkward situations and had to shut down talk of “saving my soul” and walk away. I think it can depend on many factors beyond being upfront, including the person and the situation, but I’ve also had luck with setting that expectation.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, Birdy is being peak passive aggressive and more than a little rude. I’m extremely sympathetic to religious minorities feeling excluded from events that others may see as secular or routine. I’m even sympathetic about efforts to educate others—if they ask—about your religious practice.

    But I am not sympathetic to someone posting material indicating that their coworkers are heathens in a non-religious workplace where HR has rules about not posting religious materials. Kitty’s not overreacting. Birdy is being a massive jerk but is couching it in religious terms in order to cast herself as the victim of all your office birthday cards.

    It’s not persecution, in this context, to ask that someone be held to the same non-religious-material-distribution/posting rule as all other people. And your office is already actively trying to avoid exposing Birdy to customs or practices that violate her religious practice. There’s not much more to be done, and her response is really out of line.

    1. Nottingham*

      Yeah, OP#2, I don’t think this is a chuckle-and-shrug situation, mainly because Birdy’s already done this (once? several times?) before. That context raises her choice from ‘whoops, sorry, I didn’t know’ to a more aggressive move.

      Kitty is right to take this to HR, because it sounds like Birdy is committed to her religion, which means she’s likely to keep doing this if she gets away with it. Birdy may also escalate over time until she’s put up lots of religious material in her cubicle again. It’s better (for Birdy’s long-term future with your firm as well) to get it shut down while it’s still a minor incident.

      Posting passive aggressive (or pointedly snarky?) religious comments, AFTER already being told to take down Watchtower materials, is not okay. First, Birdy knows it’s not allowed and did it anyway – she can’t claim ignorance or innocence; she’s disrespecting your boss/HR/employer, and colleagues. Second, the tone is weird, or even hostile – that’s just generally a bad idea at work. Third, if there’s a history of tension between Kitty and Birdy over her religion and the way she chooses to display it, then Birdy’s latest move could be quite hostile in that context.

      Religions aren’t monolithic. If Birdy was really bothered by being excluded socially, she could move to a slightly different, slightly more flexible sections of the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement, or even a different Christian denomination entirely. If Birdy chooses to stay with this particular church, and also chooses to stay at your particular employer – where they have rules about keeping the workplace neutral while respecting her beliefs, within reason, and she knows that – then it sounds like this is all her choice, and predictable minor consequences =/= persecution.

      Finally, everyone knows that while cubicles are personal space, they are also a shared workplace, since so many colleagues can see into them. Freedom of religion also means freedom from being forced to deal with other people’s religion or from being forced to comply with other people’s religious limits. It’s reasonable for Birdy to not celebrate birthdays, and to politely explain why not; it’s reasonable for your firm and colleagues to ask people to respect that by having parties without Birdy; it’s unreasonable for her to criticise or insult people who have different beliefs, or no religion, for doing whatever she chooses not to do.

      1. A*

        As I understand it Jehovah’s Witnesses have a requirement to do a certain amount of proselytizing each month to remain in the religion. She may consider what she’s doing to be part of that religious requirement.

        We had a problem at one of our offices with a very handsome young man who took to engaging the lonelier women in long deep lunchtime conversations to the point that more than one considered him to be romantically interested in them. He wasn’t, from his point of view he was just doing his religious duty and had found an audience that responded well to him. But it caused morale issues when the women became depressed when they finally met his wife and kids, and realised it was all in their own heads. He argued for a long time that he worked too many hours for us to do what he needed to outside of the office and he ended up being given a longer lunch break to accommodate his needs.

        1. Artemesia*

          Well that is mega creepy all around and it also gets rewarded with longer lunches? WOW.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Lol, yeah. Like, why was he doing this to just women? Creepy and inappropriate indeed.

            1. Mookie*

              And it was the “lonelier” women. (There’s a whole back history here of proselytizing-as-seducation, not as a means to manipulate women into sex or wrest away inheritances from them but to engender and then exploit sexual and romantic feelings to achieve a conversion. Plus, there’s the Victorian stock character of a young, impoverished curate prone to figurative ladykilling).

              I’m confused about “what he needed to [do] outside the office.” He came in expecting his interest in converting people he targeted as vulnerable (while, apparently, enjoying a captive “audience” to listen to this lectures) would be accommodated and when it wasn’t, he wanted a longer lunch break to pursue that elsewhere? At least the office was spared, I suppose.

              1. Kate*

                Right? I *need* to get a mani pedi on my lunch break, it’s part of my religion, after all, my body is a temple!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I imagine when he suggested to Fred from Accounting that they have a long lunch and gaze into each other’s eyes while discussing bedrock personal issues, Fred was like “No, I’m good.”

            3. Dust Bunny*

              I’m giggling at the Fred from accounting image but otherwise am totally creeped out and put off by this. I mean, I know that drawing in lonely, displaced women is the dynamic that is often actually going on there, but . . . eew^10.

        2. Allypopx*

          “Jehovah’s Witnesses have a requirement to do a certain amount of proselytizing each month to remain in the religion”

          No, and definitely not in the context of preaching to colleagues who are captive audiences. “Witnessing” is the practice of going door to door or in more urban areas you’ll see people with carts of Watchtower’s standing around, but they are supposed to leave houses if they’re turned away and those carts are meant to be passive and available to be approached. It’s all supposed to be voluntary interaction.

          What your coworker was doing was just creepy and using religion as an excuse to be predatory.

          *Raised a Jehovah’s Witness

          1. BananaPants*

            Yeah, I’ve had some extremely pushy Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. One man was so zealous in getting a Watchtower into my hands that he physically tried to enter my house and stopped me from closing my door. I told him that if he and his friends didn’t get off my property immediately I would be calling 911 and filing a trespassing charge.

            I won’t even answer the door when they’re going through the neighborhood. Not worth dealing with their baloney.

          2. A*

            He stated this was part of the ‘bible study’ part of conversion, which is apparently the stage after the handing over of materials that’s done with the carts and, here in the UK, the pamphlets claiming to be about stress relief and similar rather than Watchtower. Given that most of these women didn’t seem to realise he was leading them in ‘study’ just that he mentioned the bible a lot I can’t say he was doing it very clearly, but he was apparently compelling enough in his argument for management to believe him, or at least to choose not to challenge him about it. He definitely seemed convinced that these women were on the cusp of joining the church

            1. Allypopx*

              Yeah bible study is again, supposed to be fully voluntary, and shouldn’t be happening at work. Management shouldn’t be okay with that. At all.

              1. KellyK*

                I think preventing people from doing a Bible study on their lunch break gets into iffy ground with the EEOC. From a link posted earlier, you can require people to be respectful of other beliefs or to respect someone’s right not to be proselytized to.

                I do think that the pattern of going after lonely women and acting like he’s romantically interested in them is creepy and needs to be shut down with extreme prejudice. In my perfect world, his employer would tell him that if he wants to proselytize, he needs to be up front about it, not do this creepy bait-and-switch where people think he’s their friend or a potential boyfriend and he’s really just looking for converts.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  Preventing people who wanted to do *consensual* Bible study in lunchbreaks is one thing, but trying to evangelise people at work is absolutely not protected by UK law.

                  This isn’t a case of someone asking a colleague upfront if they want to do bible study – it’s sharing lunch and building intimacy as a way to try to backdoor-evangelise – NOT the same thing.

          3. Former Retail Manager*

            Oh boy…they love to “witness” in my neighborhood. But I do appreciate that they are always polite, dress well, and when you tell them you’re not interested, they politely offer you the Watchtower and move along. On hot summer days, I’ve even offered them some bottled water and a snack….zero interest in the faith, but I’m a sucker for politeness, which seems to be waning at a rapid rate in today’s society.

        3. Allison*

          “As I understand it Jehovah’s Witnesses have a requirement to do a certain amount of proselytizing each month to remain in the religion.”

          Ah, that actually explains a lot. I see people at the train station with what I’m pretty sure are JW materials, but they just stand there for the most part, giving materials only to those who come by – they’re not aggressive at all, maybe because they know they’ll be kicked out if they are. But maybe they also just don’t care that much about converting people, they’re just satisfying a requirement.

        4. Observer*

          Seriously?! I don’t have a problem with the longer lunches. But the idea that he thought it was acceptable to prey on these women this way?! I don’t care what his official reason was – he WAS preying on them. That should have gotten him into major mega trouble. I don’t care about his religion – it doesn’t matter “why” he (officially) did this. The fact is that he identified a vulnerable group that he could manipulate, and did just that.

          And, I don’t for one moment believe that he was just trying to do his duty by a group that “responded well to him.” He knew that he was manipulating their loneliness and need. Feh!

        5. Anna*

          That’s not actually how it’s supposed to work. I’ve known a few people who are Jehovah’s Witness and the proselytizing is *supposed* to be the “volunteer” work they do going door to door. Some of them also hand out Watchtower pamphlets downtown. I’ve never known someone to talk to people at work or on their lunch breaks in an effort to convert.

      2. Ex jw*

        There aren’t less strict movements of Jehovah’s Witnesses for anyone to join. Congregations are kept in line by leadership in New York and the send out representatives to make sure everyone follows the rules.

      3. Emi.*

        Are you seriously proposing that someone should just decide to change her religious beliefs because they’re socially unpopular at work?

          1. KellyK*

            Same here. It’s reasonable to say that if you want a work environment that allows you to proselytize, you should look for work in an organization run by your religion. Or that your religion might have requirements that your employer can’t accommodate, and you’ll end up having to choose whether to bend or break your rules or find another job. (Based on JW commenters, this particular kind of proselytizing doesn’t appear to be officially required, which is a separate question from whether Birdy feels religiously obligated to do it.)

            But I’m not at all on board with the suggestion that members of a minority religion should switch denominations to fit in better. Ick.

            1. Chinook*

              “It’s reasonable to say that if you want a work environment that allows you to proselytize, you should look for work in an organization run by your religion. ”

              Or be willing to let other religions proselytize back at you. While I have no problems with posting a short explanation of why they aren’t celebrating birthdays (because I could see it being a common question), anything more is either pushing your religion on others or showing a willingness to hear why others think you are the heathen (or, worse, part of a cult). I mean, if our Catholic parish priest can invite the JW door knockers in to explain to them that his way is actually the true path (he was late for mass and gave that as his explanation), I don’t see why I can’t be the one to explain to Birdie how wrong she is. After all, she started the discussion and discussions go both ways, right?

              Which just goes to highlight why HR needs to step in and tell Birdie that no religious items should be posted because, if one person gets to do it, then everybody gets.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I saw that and took it very badly.

          It’s 1000% ok for Birdy to be religious and to be at work, and it’s ok for her to continue her religious practice. Being “committed” to your faith does not mean that you’re going to continue to transgress internal policies for your workplace; I called this out precisely because there are lots of people who are committed to their faiths (including faiths requiring proselytization) who do not do this at all. But I certainly didn’t mean to create a platform for suggesting that Birdy is some outlier who should “choose” to leave her religion (!).

          Suggesting that she should convert or move to “flexible sections” of her larger faith community (!!??) is not among the reasonable professional choices a person is required to consider.

        2. General Ginger*

          Yeah, I’m not comfortable with that suggestion. There is a huge difference between not proselytizing to coworkers and changing one’s religious beliefs to placate coworkers.

    2. Margo*

      I agree that Birdy is out of line as she is violating the ‘no religious materials’ rule and it is clearly making at least one of her co-workers uncomfortable.

      OP, I I don’t think it is remotely unreasonable or overreacting for Kitty to want to involve HR (and I think that would still be true even if the material Birdy was displaying was not overtly critical of non-JWs, given that it is against company policy)

      It sounds as though Birdy is already being accommodated in terms of her religious views as her co-workers are taking care not to involve her in celebrations of birthdays etc – objecting to her displaying religious material is not persecution, it is about expecting her to extend the same respect for others beliefs (or lack of them) to you, Kitty and the rest of the staff that you all extend to her.

      1. Blue*

        I’m guessing the reason Birdy posted something in her cubicle about why her religion doesn’t celebrate birthdays is because people are NOT actually respecting that to the degree they think they are. It is extremely on the nose. I’d be careful about assuming she’s the one in the wrong here, but hey, whatever, this thread has already decided she’s a creep and everything else.

        1. Lablizard*

          Even if people had been respecting her beliefs less than she thinks, the solution is not to post religious materials when she already knows it is forbid. The solution is to go to HR and ask for assistance. She isn’t a creep, but she is repeating something she already knows violates company policy. That is not how you handle these sorts of issues in the workplace.

          1. Blue*

            I’m unclear if it’s actually a religious material, or if its information simply saying why x don’t celebrate birthdays.

            1. Lablizard*

              You are right, it really depends on on whether it contained any judgement about people who celebrate birthdays and holidays. If it was just, “why JW don’t celebrate”, without any implication that people who do celebrate are wrong and terrible, it could just be a way to get out of answering questions.

              I run into this a bit because my name is very traditional religious so people ask me a million questions about Islam. My family has been secular since before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, so I sometimes get tired of answering even well meaning questions about a religion people presume that I practice. I do get where Birdy might be coming from if she is tired of answering questions.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It seems pretty clear from the description that is religious material in that it provides information about a faith tradition and then makes normative judgments about individuals who are not part of that tradition. I’m not sure how you’re defining “religious material”—are you thinking it’s limited only to Bible tracts, etc.?

            3. SemipracticingJW*

              Having been raised a witness and being fairly certain I know exactly what article she posted, it’s not overtly religious nor does it call anyone a heathen. It is simply an explanation on the origins of birthdays and why JW’s do not observe them. It’s the same information you would find if you googled origins on birthdays.

              I’m of two minds, on the one hand if it’s against policy then no, it shouldn’t be posted. On the otherhand if it’s simply an article she’s posted on her cubicle wall and she’s not forcing people to read it what’s the harm? Maybe she does get questioned about this more often then you think (I know I always was) and this was simply an easy way for her to provide a blanket response.

        2. Blue*

          Even the way the OP describes the document as depicting people not of the religion as heathens — i mean, if this thing doesn’t literally say that, this is a good indication of the hostility this woman is experiencing.

        3. OP #2 re Birdy and Kitty*

          Actually, that isn’t quite accurate. There was a birthday card going around the department for someone that “got lost” (we put them in plain envelopes with a list of names on the front – when you sign it, cross yours off, and pass it to the next person. Birdy’s name is not on the list at all). When it was the birthday day and still no card an email went around asking if anyone had seen the envelope. Birdy did get this email, and was offended (my guess) because she realized it was about a birthday card. The full-page went up in her cubicle that afternoon.

          1. Czhorat*

            How often are there birthday celebrations, and what form do they take?

            If not celebrating birthdays means that Birdy misses out on cupcakes and soda in the break room every six weeks or so then it shouldn’t really be a big real. If there’s a party every week and people put lots of effort into it then it might be worth considering toning it down so as not to Birdy feel excluded from major office socializing because of his religion.

            This is one of those many situations in which nobody is really “wrong” – to answer your question – but everyone needs to see other perspectives.

            Birdy needs to understand that not everyone follows his religion.
            Kitty needs to understand that Birdy’s religion IS an important part of his identity, making this a big issue for him.

            I’m very curious as to what the content of this flier was, to know if you could judge it as an explanation of how important the birthday thing is to him or if it’s so over-the-top that it could only be seen as a thinly veiled attack.

            1. OP #2 re Birdy and Kitty*

              There are birthdays almost once a month, but no actual “celebrations” (ie, food, opening gifts, congregating at one’s desk or in a common space, etc). We just send around a card for everyone (but Birdy) to sign. And like I said, we do plenty of other departmental things not related to holidays in which she *does* participate.

              The thing she posted was not official JW material. It looks like something she typed up in Outlook and then printed. It is a full page of the historical and biblical reasons why JW’s don’t celebrate birthdays. There was a line in there about non-JWs being uneducated and pagan in their ways and it being a path of sin. I mentioned before that my reaction was to “chuckle-shrug.” I guess because I am an atheist, so I’d been called a heathen or worse in all sorts of contexts before. Maybe I am getting immune to it? But after reading some of the other comments, I know I need to go outside my experience and reaction.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Thanks; the details about whether the document actually disparaged people who don’t follow the religion are important.

              2. General Ginger*

                Yeah, the “non-JWs being on the path of sin” bit is where I’d draw the line. As a queer atheist, I’ve heard worse, and my usual reaction at this point is just “ah, yep, that again”, but this doesn’t belong in an office.

              3. Annonymice*

                Sadly, these Witnesses are often the ones who gain the most attention because they make the most noise. I suspect if Birdie was in any other religion, she’d do something similar with other contexts. Witnesses are actually taught to *not* force their religion on others and to *not* judge others’ practices. Though if asked, they are encouraged to explain why. For those dealing with such people, remember they are humans first and Witnesses second. For example, the man mentioned above cornering isolated women, he could very well be grooming them, and simply using the religion as an excuse – just like the catholic priest incidents in UK + Ireland history.

                On a separate note, it can be very lonely watching the celebrations and not being able to take part. Some of my favourite memories growing up have been of people including me in a non-religious way. A neutral card at winter wishing me a happy holiday away from school, or the odd gift given on a day instead of my birthday to remind me I’m still thought of.

                *Grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness.

                1. SemipracticingJW*

                  Thank you very much for this comment. Having also grown up a witness and still having strong ties to the religion this is something I don’t think people understand. Just like in all religions you have people who go to extremes and that shouldn’t be representative of the religion as a whole. Most witnesses I know would be horrified both at the man cornering isolated women and that fact that apparently Birdy wrote up her own explanation on birthdays and included such harsh language. That is not the norm nor the expectation for witnesses.

              4. Sansa*

                Goodness – thanks for the details of what was posted by Birdy! As someone who was raised as a JW, I’m pretty familiar with their materials and know the “official” ones are designed to teach and make people think – not make people feel talked down to or accused. I can absolutely see her wanting to post something that teaches if she gets a lot of questions about why she doesn’t celebrate.

                However what she’s posting sounds pretty mean spirited and definitely not the way to educate people let alone bring anyone to her side of thinking. It’s kind of boggling that she would post something like that when there are plenty of materials she can copy and paste from JW software that would explain her beliefs in a much less inflammatory manner.

                I would have a chat with her about how what’s in her cube is making people feel but I could totally understand just going straight to HR (however I think going to HR will just give her more reason to think she’s being persecuted for her religious beliefs so I think it will have the best chance at a good resolution to just talk to her 1:1)

              5. Candi*

                Um, I studied with the JWs for a while. What she did is wrong on at least three of their levels, possibly more, and certainly wrong from the company and coworkers’ POV.

          2. Natalie*

            Well, if she was offended that’s quite an overreaction. Certainly she’s aware that other people celebrate birthdays and expecting that no one will ever mention a birthday card to her under any circumstances is unreasonable.

            That said, if I were in your position I’d probably feel similarly to you and just roll my eyes and move on. I don’t think you need to pursue anything, but let Kitty do so if she feels strongly and just stay out of it.

            1. Allison*

              Exactly. If you don’t celebrate birthdays, and want no part in other birthday celebrations, fine, no one should force you. However, celebrating birthdays is a pretty normal thing most people do in the “real world,” including at work. You can’t expect to be completely shielded from the existence of birthdays just because you don’t believe in them.

              1. Instruct Not Destruct*

                You very likely didn’t mean it that way, but let’s avoid suggesting other religions aren’t part of the ‘real world’.

                Ultimately though, I agree. It sounds like a lot of effort has been put into not including Birdie in card circulations, it seems unreasonable to get offended at the odd mistake and when it’s clear overarching efforts have been made.

                1. Kate*

                  Well, “the real world” is meant as “what 99% of the world’s population does” I think. Not everyone does big celebrations, but other than Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have never heard of any culture/ethnicity, country or religion that doesn’t recognize birthdays in some way or other. So in a way, Birdy doesn’t live in the “real world”, the same world that most people live in.

                2. Candi*

                  Some Sacred Names groups, some sects of Islam, and a few tiny sects here and there. Still not a huge number, but more than just JWs. They are the largest group though.

            2. Anne (with an "e")*

              As a Christian I certainly would not be upset if someone sent an email asking if someone had seen Mark’s Happy Hanukkah Card. Just because I personally don’t celebrate Hanukkah, I know that some people do and it’s not offensive to me.

              1. Czhorat*

                True, but you’re also in the majority. While Jehova’s Witnesses are Christians, they’re still a minority religion and quite likely see themselves as misunderstood.

                1. Anna*

                  Jehovah’s Witnesses may be a minority sect of Christianity, but I would have a hard time calling them a minority religion since they still identify as Christian and Christianity is the dominant religion in most western countries. And while Birdy may feel hard done by with the birthday celebrations, that doesn’t negate that her reaction is seriously disproportionate to the offense.

                2. Non for this*

                  This is going to be an unpopular opinion and I don’t mean to derail the conversation or start a debate, but JWs are not “Christian.” I mean no offense by this, either.

                  Mormonism and JW are different, as Islam and Judaism are different from Christianity. Many use the same texts or have similar interpretations of who God is, but JW and Mormonism are not “denomination” of Christianity. Their foundational beliefs differ to greatly to fall under the umbrella of Christianity. Every pastor I know- Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Non-denom, etc., would say the same thing if you asked them if JW or Mormonism/LDS were denominations of Christianity.

                3. Annonymice*

                  Non for This
                  You get as much say about whether Witnesses are Christian or not as the woman in the op has at calling others heathens. For the record, Christianity is a believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Not the Trinity or any other definition. Legally, they are also recognised as Christians.

                  So please, do not go there.

                4. Observer*

                  As an Orthodox Jew, I am most definitely in a minority position. And if someone put me on the email asking “Did anyone see Mark’s Christmas cards?” I’d not be in the least bit offended, even Christmas is as much against my religion as birthdays are hers. *And* despite the fact that I keep getting told that it’s not against my religion (because all of the people who say that know more about my religion than I do, according to them.)

          3. TL -*

            Birdy is being ridiculous. An email asking “have you seen a birthday card?” is no more asking her to celebrate a birthday than an email sent around asking if you’d seen a missing cross necklace is. She needs to have a talk with HR to clarify what she can and cannot expect and do in the workplace – and she can’t expect that birthdays not be acknowledged at all because she doesn’t celebrate them.

          4. Parenthetically*

            Wait, what?! She got an email about the whereabouts of a birthday card and that offended her enough to post a retributive “explanation” of her practices? Jeepers creepers, that’s SO out of line. It’s one thing to say privately to the person who sent the email, “Hey, because of my religious practice, stuff like this makes me feel really left out,” or to say to folks who ask, “Oh, yeah, my religion doesn’t observe birthdays or holidays, but have fun!”

            I’m so sympathetic to folks who practice a minority religion, particularly one with practices that make them conspicuous in their abstention from or participation in certain activities. But I also think it’s possible to grow a WAY thicker skin than Birdy has.

          5. Michele*

            If that is the case, Birdy is definitely overreacting. She can’t expect the rest of the world to stop celebrating birthdays just because she chooses not to.

          6. KellyK*

            That seems like a passive-aggressive and snarky overreaction on her part. It’s reasonable for her to expect that people will leave her off the birthday list and not make a huge deal about birthdays in her presence. But a generic “Hey, has anyone seen Bob’s card?” email doesn’t imply or expect that anybody celebrate birthdays. It’s a routine housekeeping thing. I mean, you wouldn’t leave people off the “Get your stuff out of the fridge by noon or it gets tossed” email because they’re doing a religious fast.

          7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Birdy’s reaction is completely unreasonable. My faith tradition can forbid celebrating birthdays without me regulating everyone else’s ability to celebrate birthdays. I

            ‘m going to say something I almost never say because it’s not particularly inclusive: If Birdy wants to work in a place that conforms strictly to her religious practice, she should work for an organization that is run by or in accordance with JW practices.

            Getting angry that birthday cards are circulated without your knowledge or participation is objectively unreasonable in 99% of non-religious workplaces.

            1. Parenthetically*

              I agree, except I think she’s going to cause problems in a JW workplace too. I’ve known a lot of JWs in my life and not a single one was as intractable or passive-aggressive or prickly as Birdy, which tells me this is a lot more to do with personality than religious observance.

              1. Anna*

                Same. Most people who are Jehovah’s Witness (in my experience) are seriously live and let live. They know they’re practice is not typical and while they want to get to all the souls they can, they aren’t interested in beating you over the head with it. The people shouting on the corners are probably NEVER Jehovah’s Witness.

                1. Annabell*

                  Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Most of the JW’s I know are pretty laid back and self-aware. Even people who have knocked on my door are rather polite and immediately take no for an answer.

          8. General Ginger*

            It seems kinda extreme to be offended by someone asking if people around the office had seen the envelope when it went missing. Just because you aren’t on the list of people signing it doesn’t mean you haven’t seen an envelope fitting the description sitting around by the coffee machine or something.

          9. Chomps*

            This sounds like an overreaction on Birdy’s part. She doesn’t have to participate, but it’s unrealistic to expect to never even have to hear about birthdays.

          10. Kate*

            I admit, I am pessimistic, but was the card ever found? Since Birdy was offended by even getting included in a generic email about a lost birthday card, it makes me wonder if she took things into her own hands and threw it away. She might even feel she was saving you all from paganism and heathenism.

        4. Cambridge Comma*

          I also wondered whether she was sick of being asked why she didn’t celebrate birthdays and was trying to address that. It’s difficult to explain what a religion believes without crossing the line to promoting that religion.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this is my bet. Or people are tittering about her a lot more than management realizes. Which doesn’t mean that her reaction to the email wasn’t ridiculous, but if she’s getting gossiped about a lot, it wouldn’t be surprising if she’s overly sensitive. Accepting that not everyone follows the practices to which you are personally accustomed goes both ways.

            (I’m a dyed in the wool atheist but my religious background is liberal Quaker. We don’t have clergy. The idea of having a third party intervene in your religious experience seems invasive, creepy, and unnecessary to me but apparently is serious cause for concern for a lot of more-mainstream Christians. But I don’t argue with them about it because it’s not my circus.)

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, I could see that. When you’re part of a small religion that’s well-known for just a couple things, discussing those things can get incredibly repetitive and deeply annoying.

          3. OP #2 re Birdy and Kitty*

            Most of us that work with her have been here at least 5+ yrs. She’s been here over 10. Her preferences aren’t a secret and I don’t know of anyone that questions her about it. In fact, I know she’d welcome questions or conversations (provided they weren’t sh*tty in tone). The only static she’s ever gotten was when she made it a little too public.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I had a boss a long time ago who was JW, and she made this point, whenever someone new started, of having a whole explanation about why she didn’t celebrate her birthday and nobody should give her a birthday card or wish her happy birthday. There was always a certain “methinks she doth protest too much” vibe to it for me. (She was a good copy editor but not a good manager, in my estimation, and the JW thing is the least of it.)

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I constantly have to explain my religious practice, and I never cross over into promotion. There are ways to do this more delicately and with greater consideration than Birdy.

          5. Kate*

            I disagree. Seems pretty clear to me how to do it. State the facts. We don’t celebrate birthdays because _________. Don’t make it personal. Don’t use words like “sin.” Presumably, the JW rationale is clearly stated somewhere (I have no idea what it is). You don’t even have to believe a religion’s teachings to know the rationale behind them.

        5. meat lord*

          Since the OP has posted further explanation of what’s going on, I think it’s safe to say that Birdy is, uh, crossing some lines here. Her flyer included a line about “non-JWs being uneducated and pagan in their ways and it being a path of sin.” I think we can agree that disparaging your coworkers’ religious beliefs/lack thereof is uncool and inappropriate.

          It also seems as though her coworkers are trying to keep birthday celebrations minimal, and to make it easy for Birdy to not participate in them while not feeling left out. All they do is give out birthday cards, which Birdy is not asked to sign; that hardly seems excessive or oppressive.

      2. Tuckerman*

        To play devil’s advocate…It’s not super clear to me from the description of the cubicle posting that it isn’t more explanatory than condemning.

        If a Muslim woman posted a “Why we wear the hijab” explanation on her cubicle, or a Sikh man posted about the origins of the turban, I think that would be received well in many workplaces, as promoting cultural awareness. Birdy may be thinking along the same lines (“People might want to know why I don’t celebrate birthdays”).

        My guess though, is that it is a bit a both. That Birdy is addressing potential curiosity while subtly nudging others to consider whether their actions offend God.

        1. Temperance*

          I think the difference, though, is between “this is what we believe” and “this is truth about God and ya’ll are going to hell”. I’ve read some JW literature, and it tends to lean more towards “this is truth” than neutral statements on their beliefs.

          1. Aeth*

            I mean, they do literally refer to their belief system as ‘The Truth’ amongst themselves, so this is an accurate assessment.

            1. Tuckerman*

              Isn’t that true of most if not all religious? I grew up in a church that called itself “the true church.”

              1. Temperance*

                I think some take it to an extreme. I’m an ex-evangelical, and they were obsessive about the fact that anyone not in our denom was hell-bound.

              2. Aeth*

                Well…referring to your own religion as ‘the truth’ in order to show that you fully believe it is one thing, but they seem to view ‘The Truth’ as a shorthand for their entire belief system. They use the terminology “Is Tuckerman in The Truth?” to ask whether someone is a practicing member of their religion or not. “They’re not in The Truth” to specify that someone is an unbeliever. It does sound unusual in use.

                The casual usage of the term tends to ingrain the belief that they are right and everybody else is wrong, so active JWs often have great difficulty differentiating between a ‘this is what we believe’ approach, and one in which they actively condemn those with beliefs that aren’t in alignment with their own.

        2. neverjaunty*

          The OP clarified in comments that, yes, Birdy was disparaging others’ beliefs.

          There’s a long history of Christians disparaging non-Christian faiths as “heathen” and worse, and using that as justification for actual oppression. If I were Kitty, I’d have gone to HR yesterday.

        3. TL -*

          I would find that weird if it went into religious righteousness, yes.
          A Muslim woman posting something like “I wear a hijab because in Islam, modesty (by covering the hair) is valued” wouldn’t be a problem for me. A post that says, “I wear a hijab because to be immodest is to commit a grave sin* in the eyes of Allah” would be much more problematic.
          The first one states her values and implicitly asks you to respect them; the second states her values and implicitly passes a judgment on those who choose not to wear a hijab. It would be even worse if it continued..”those who do not wear a hijab are considered to be heathens.” which pretty explicitly passes a judgment on those who choose not to wear a hijab.

          *probably not the right wording here, apologies!

        4. Chinook*

          I think if Birdie posted a simple explanation of why she doesn’t celebrate birthdays, then that would be very different from what it is implied that she posted – not only an explanation but that those who do are heathens. It would be similar to a Muslim woman posting her explanation of why she wears the hijab that, from the wording, implies that women who show too much skin or show their hair in public are indecent or even whores.

          It is the subtle difference of explaining why I do something vs. telling you that you should be doing the same thing.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m going to disagree. Muslim women and Sikh men (in the U.S.) frequently explain why they wear certain articles of faith without calling everyone infidels or heathens. Both the original post and OP’s clarifications indicate that this was not a neutral “factsheet” on the religious framework for why JW’s do not celebrate holidays or birthdays.

          1. fposte*

            Yup. This is the pamphlet version of “Because my parents didn’t raise me to be a whore.”

    3. Alice's_tree*

      It amazes me that anyone is taking this letter writer’s “uneducated heathens” comments as though the materials the person posted actually said that, rather than being the snarky inference this person has drawn. The material in question is freely available on I took a look to be sure, and the word “heathens” appears nowhere in any version of it.

      This is the problem I have with modern discourse, not only on the subject of religion, but virtually any topic. You’re not allowed to state what you believe without people acting like that’s an attack on whoever believes differently. The LW has no credibility with me.

      1. Alice's_tree*

        I see the LW clarified that it was something she wrote herself, but the point still stands. LW’s further comments indicate that “uneducated heathens” was an inference — and one of a nature to inflame. That makes this whole issue pointless to discuss, because you can’t trust the LWs credibility. People are now debating the general likability of Jehovah’s Witnesses instead of the HR issue, and the whole thing is just massively irritating.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Alice, I am confused about what point still stands. There was not an “inference” – the OP wrote in a comment that in Birdy’s poster “There was a line in there about non-JWs being uneducated and pagan in their ways and it being a path of sin.”

          So, though the “uneducated heathen” is not the literal line, and it was instead that “uneducated” and “pagan in their ways” – how does that equal the OP being not credible? What difference between those phrases exists in your mind to turn the LW into an unreliable narrator?

        2. meat lord*

          No, the LW was pretty explicit about the contents of the flyer. They didn’t provide an exact quote, but they paraphrased it as follows: “There was a line in there about non-JWs being uneducated and pagan in their ways and it being a path of sin.” If you’d prefer to believe that the LW made that up, that’s your call, I guess.

          The problem isn’t that Birdy stated what she believed; the problem is that she *did* express hostility toward those who believe differently, and that she’s also violating workplace policy.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think that’s an accurate summation of the conversation at all, and your conclusion about OP#2’s credibility doesn’t seem grounded in/by the information we’ve been provided. There’s not much room between calling people “uneducated” and “pagan” vs. calling them “uneducated heathens.” Given that OP found those comments to be amusing and non-offensive, I’m inclined to believe that they’re underplaying what Birdy wrote. The core HR issue is whether it’s ok for Birdy to (1) put up information that is religious in nature, and independently, (2) whether it’s ok to post a statement regarding belief that also judges or otherwise maligns non-members of that community.

          Almost any pejorative statement regarding other people’s beliefs/practices is going to be inappropriate, which seemed to have happened here. But even if you choose to disregard the pejorative portion of the statement (problem #2, above), you still have a problem with respect to dissemination of religious information/material (problem #1, above).

          I usually think it’s worth bringing this up with your coworker before escalating, but given the circumstances leading up to Birdy’s posting and the fact that she’s been warned before, I think Kitty is well within the scope of reasonable reactions to go straight to HR.

          1. Alice's_tree*

            Okay, let’s start with the difference between “heathens” and “pagans”. One is pejorative, the other descriptive. I know many people who identify as pagan, and saying that someone’s “ways” are pagan is not insulting. Nor is saying that someone is uneducated necessarily insulting. If I were to tell you that most people are uneducated about the origins of Mother’s Day (which started as an activist movement), I would simply be stating a truth. The fact that the LW took these two statements, now presented by LW as separate, and offered them up as the inflammatory phrase “uneducated heathens” destroys credibility.

            Maybe the woman’s post really was offensive, I have no idea. But I do know it wasn’t offensive in the way that was originally presented, by LWs own admission. There’s enough divisiveness in the world. We have a responsibility when what we say risks casting shade on an entire religious community and increasing divisions to choose our words carefully.

            1. MiaMia*

              1. Pagan is absolutely used as a pejorative by many Christians.
              2. Heathen is absolutely used as a self-description by many Norse pagans.

              So no, this isn’t as simple as “pagan is good, some people call themselves pagan” and “heathen is bad, no one identifies that way.” It’s more like “it’s okay if you describe yourself that way, not if someone forces the word on you” – for both words.

              What this woman posted stated that everyone who celebrated birthdays was too stupid to know why they shouldn’t, and also that they were not following the proper, true, faith. That crosses the line.

  5. Mike C.*

    It might be useful for OP1 to ask about what sort of opportunities exist for development. When I started at my large company, it was really overwhelming the number of different areas someone could go into. Maybe you’ll hear about something you’ve never heard of or ever considered before.

    Just don’t let those tests get you down, they’re mostly based on bad data and folks who are looking for easy answers to complicated interpersonal issues. I mean, it’s natural to want easy answers, but a few tests aren’t going to give them to you.

    1. misspiggy*

      Yes, absolutely. The biggest proponent of those in my experience didn’t know how to deal with people, but felt she should be doing something to develop the team. We did the tests instead of having direct conversations.

    2. Mookie*

      So long as management aren’t literally using the results of them to provide feedback or approving transfers or promotions based on their outcomes, they’re mostly a time-waster rather than actively counterproductive.

      I think Alison’s script here is so spot-on. Plenty of people do not like bringing their work home with them, and are not interested in advancing or developing a career beyond earning a living and keeping necessary skill sets sharp and up-to-date. People like this, though sometimes underrated, are often workhorses, reliable and dependable and through sheer repetition quite efficient — my experience is that they’re the best at optimization because they’re not interested in ego-stroking Disruption so much as the more arduous task of fine-tuning and auditing processes — and most teams need them.

      1. Elise*

        I totally agree with this. As long as you continue to improve the skills needed in your current position, I’d see you as an asset, OP1. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, you can be counted on to provide continuity in your position for a good long time.

        I’ve recently had this issue, but have had to word things carefully as I don’t want to say for sure that I’m happy in my current position forever. But the reason I currently am happy with the status quo is that I have a young child and right now I just don’t have the energy to put towards trying to move up, especially because I have a pretty flexible schedule and no problems getting time off if I need it.

        I generally say things similar to the posted answer. “I feel that my skills are currently well used in this position.” Or “My goals are to continue to improve the customer experience with the chocolate teapot website and to enhance my web development skill set.” Make your goals about improving your performance in your current job. It is hard to argue with that as a manager. Then, if you change your mind one day (not saying you should at all, just in case) you haven’t already told them that you never want to move up.

        1. Howdy Do*

          It really does seem the OP just needs to learn how to “talk the talk” and fudge the truth a little bit. I’m a very “stay the course” kind of person and don’t have a burning desire to be a superstar and move up the ranks to the top. I just want to do my job well. But we’ve all been a bit brainwashes to think this isn’t an ideal way for employees to describe themselves so I would never say this stuff in an interview or a review (unless I knew for sure my manager saw value in it, like Mookie describes above.)

      2. nofelix*

        Personally I’ve found personality tests really useful in understanding interpersonal dynamics. As long as you remember the type is not the person they can be an asset. It can be helpful to see the difference between things that are superficially similar, like people who are detail orientated but in different ways, or outgoing in different ways.

    3. Michele*

      I completely agree that OP1 should has what opportunities there are for development. When I started my career, I was under the delusion that my boss would tell me about opportunities. If I could go back in time, I would be much more proactive about asking about them. OP is lucky to have a boss who is trying to have the conversation.

  6. MadGrad*

    I mean, if Birdy doesn’t want trouble then Birdy probably shouldn’t be breaking rules to post religious *condemnations* (“educating” people on why they are failing to meet her religious standards is judgy as heck). I don’t think it would be unfair at all for her to get in trouble over this.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t think this needs to be about anyone getting ‘in trouble’ (unless your definition of ‘in trouble’ is ‘being asked to take it down’). We don’t know why she’s doing it. We could speculate endlessly about why, but only Birdy actually knows the answer.

      Your colleague could matter of factly go to HR or a manager, but I think the key thing is not to be invested in the outcome. Passing on information is okay in this situation. Viewing it as getting someone into trouble is not.

      1. MadGrad*

        I’d argue that it really doesn’t matter what reasoning Birdy had for it – it sounds pretty offensive.

        I agree about not looking for trouble as an outcome – I just wanted to address the LW’s concern about Birdy being “unfairly persecuted”. You’re right that it shouldn’t be the goal, but if she did get any scolding for it, it would hardly be unwarranted. I don’t think they should be worrying about saving Birdy from potential issues that she brings on herself might a better way to put it?

        1. Julia*

          Right? If I put up a poster saying all meat-eaters were savages and murderers, I’d deserve to get into trouble for that. (Even thought even non-vegetarians in my country are often horrified when they see the conditions the animals they eat are raised and slaughtered in.)

        2. Mookie*

          I think characterizing, as the LW did, the enforcing of rules as “unfair persecution” is hyperbolic. There’s nothing “unfair” or personal about it; Birdy can be asked to abide by the same guidelines everyone else already is. That would create equality of outcome. She’s not being targeted for her religion — indeed, everyone is accommodating her needs already — but for creating an adversarial atmosphere where there needn’t be one, pitting herself against anyone in the office who isn’t receptive. This is just like any other behavioral problem warranting action or discipline, not a case of discrimination.

          1. Aurora*

            Birdy is already being accommodated because of her religion, and at work, there should also be an expectation of freedom FROM religion.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree re: mischaracterizing what was happening as persecution.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I think the employer might be in the wrong here too saying no religious stuff in your cubes. If someone wanted to have a cross or a prayer printed out for their own purposes, I think that would have to be allowed. That’s different from a manifesto for others to read though. I’d just warn that the company should be cautious saying “no religious stuff in your office/cube.” That’s similar to telling someone they can’t wear a crucifix.

      1. Michele*

        I think they can say “no religious stuff” as long as they aren’t singling out a specific religion or denomination.

      2. Turquoise Cow*

        The first amendment – which I think is what is being cited here – allows for freedom of expression, speech, religion by making it unacceptable for the *government* to infringe upon those rights. If the government were to tell you that you cannot, or must adhere to standards of dress, grooming, etc., or told you that you could not state your religious beliefs (vocally or via your dress, i.e. a hijab, cross, yarmulke, etc.), then your rights are certainly being infringed upon and you have a legal case.

        However, the first amendment doesn’t stop your employer from telling you that you can’t wear a green mohawk, or you must removed head coverings or jewelry, or that you can’t decorate your work space with images of the Virgin Mary. It also doesn’t protect you from facing the consequences of your speech. Birdie is perfectly capable of speaking or writing about her beliefs; the law does not prevent her employer from firing her. As long as the reason for firing her is not related to her religion, the company can fire her. If she’s not adhering to company standards AND those standards aren’t discriminatory – they’re applied to everyone – there’s no reason why the company can’t tell her to adhere to those standards.

        I’m not a lawyer, but first amendment doesn’t mean a private company can’t impose rules and she (or anyone else) can’t be expected to adhere to them.

        (It also doesn’t protect her from any coworkers who might think badly of her, or retaliate in some way. If Kitty were to get angry at being called a heathen and punched Birdie, that would be a problem for completely different reasons.)

        1. Turquoise Cow*

          Also, in this situation, the company definitely could take disciplinary action (though firings might be too much) if she’s been repeatedly told not to share religious materials and keeps doing it, or if she’s printing this material on company time using company property. The subject of the documentation is irrelevant – the same action would be justified if she used her work hours to write a novel and printed it on company paper.

      3. Erin*

        I think the employer went to extremes. Most people don’t have a problem with a co worker wearing a cross or having a bible verse of the day calendar on their desk. I’ve worked with a woman who was a witness and she was super polite, and I enjoyed working with her. Posting a sign that reads that your coworkers are going to hell because of their beliefs is just obnoxious an inappropriate.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I don’t think that’s petty either! Seeing a not-great photo of yourself can make you feel, well, not-great. (Am remembering an old employer that would pretty much ambush people with a camera without advance warning and then you’d be stuck with the results. I’d have liked to know so I could think what to wear and such.) And maybe all the photos weren’t great and that’s why they seemed upset.

    You’re concerned you’re being petty and marketing seemed upset so it sounds like this has started to feel a bit emotionally charged – but I think you could really matter of factly stand your ground on this. You’re not asking for a personal favour. Tell them you’d rather use this photo and will that be possible?

    1. Charisma*

      Marketing’s attitude is kind of blowing me away here. I used to be the person who coordinated this stuff and eventually sifted through ALL those photos. I would then present the “Top 3” photos for each “model” to choose from before we usually picked the final image and then I made the final touches. But in reality we went out of our way to make sure people would be happy. And if that meant taking 100 photos of a single person*, then so be it! (That was rarely if ever the case, really only the shyest of people took that many to get enough “good” photos. And that’s because we had to warm them up to get them relaxed). And we have that luxury because of digital cameras thank you very much! Maybe my organization was just way more concerned about making people feel good and about how people were presented to the outside world than most?

      *I deleted A LOT of junk photos where people were just getting used to being in front of the camera. Some people got it in 2-3 shots, most took more like 5-10.

      1. Lionheart*

        Wow. I want to work with you. We get ONE photo. If it’s terrible and you complain, you might get a second one.

        1. Margo*

          We wouldn’t re-take pictures under normal circumstances because getting the photographer back in is expensive, but last time we had ours done (and we’ll be doing it gain soon due to staff changes) they took multiple shots of each of us so we could then pick which we preferred.

          For staff who join between photoshoots I am responsible for getting photos onto our website. I will take pictures of the new person and let them chose which one they prefer, and I also always tell them that if they prefer to give me an alternative one then as long as it is a colour headshot against a white background, and of suitable size and quality for me to upload, I am happy to use that instead.

          The only person I have turned down was a staff member who wanted to use a photo they had which didn’t fit that criteria – it was black and white and as everything else is in colour would have looked out of place.

          If your headshot was taken by a professional I think you would need the origianl photographer to sign a release to let your company use it – could that be the reason for marketing’s objection?

          1. nofelix*

            If all of an employee’s photos are objectively unusable seems like the photographer should have taken more at the time. Fixing this by taking some more at their studio for free, or even returning to the office if it’s a big client, seems fair enough. Any photographers want to chime in?

            Of course if the photos are fine and the employee just doesn’t like them that’s different.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My ability to close my eyes in every photo would easily defeat this system.

          1. Adlib*

            I had to have a good chunk of my high school senior pictures redone because of this! It was always just one of my eyes that would close or half-close before the shutter could get me. For some reason, that doesn’t happen to me anymore even with flash photography. Maybe it was just the setting and having professional lighting and such.

        3. Charisma*

          To me it sounds like they are treating Headshots the same way that they treat ID photos, which they really aren’t. If you “just” need an image of someone to identify them, then sure, I can see how you don’t want to waste time and resources on taking multiple photos of each individual. But when you are specifically taking “Headshots” that are representing not only the person but the organization, I have found that it is WAY more cost effective to have the “good” photos up front that you take the time to take in the first place. And I have been doing this for almost 20 years now.

          Things I’ve learned:
          1. It is always cheaper to get everything done the first time around. So be as prepared as possible and be ready to be a gofer for the photographer.
          2. Don’t just hire a photographer with a camera. Get a photographer with an entire setup. Backdrops and real lighting are SO important to make sure that people look good. Good lighting gives people shadowing so that they pop and don’t flatten out. Avoiding excessive flash helps people keep their eyes open and not look stoned/dopey!
          3. Make it a relaxed atmosphere so people can relax. Provide food and drinks (and if allowed maybe some light alcohol). You’d be amazed how much feeding people can really help level some blood sugars.
          4. Provide backup clothes like neck ties and suite jackets! And try to remind people to bring backup clothes just in case what they are wearing didn’t work. Sometimes just swapping out some clothing can make a huge difference. Pops of color, contrasts, all these little details can really help a photo out.

          There are always people that are going to be meh, or not completely happy about their photos. BUT… if they can feel LESS meh about their photo, then you have succeeded. Which happily I have largely accomplished. Our philosophy was that we wanted everyone’s photo to represent their “Best Self”.

          Now I’m missing my old job. I don’t get to run photo shoot anymore :(

      2. MsSolo*

        I suspect Marketing have probably had multiple requests to change photos, and have retreated to a defensive position because they hadn’t anticipated people might be fussy about images of themselves online.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yup. And they probably made a deal with this photographer to have permission to post all of the photos on the website. If a bunch of people ask to swap theirs, then they have to check that everyone has permission to post their preferred photos (or they should!).

          And if the company-provided head shot was taken with a specific backdrop (the company’s branding colors, say), I bet they don’t want to deal with mismatched photos or having to Photoshop the right background into everyone’s preferred shots either.

          1. Mookie*

            Good points by you and MsSolo. It’s possible they’re pushing back because they recognized their system is flawed and that this could create a domino effect. So be it, though, this is a good learning experience for them. Charisma’s experience above needs to be replicated, wherever possible and tweaked as needed, everywhere.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          This is my guess too. I was recently in this position, and I am over it.

          I’m not getting upset, though- I simply state that sorry, all the pictures have to have the same background/lighting.

      3. Gen*

        Wow that sounds amazing. At the bank we always got told that our photos had to be recognisable as us for the customers and if we objected that they were bad we were just told that was the consequence of being ugly. Fun place to work.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          and if we objected that they were bad we were just told that was the consequence of being ugly.

          Oh my word, lol. I hope you don’t still work there.

        2. Mookie*

          When I was a student working a university job I had a manager who insisted I get my school ID photograph changed (we wore the IDs clipped to lanyards on shift) because I looked like garbage in it. I thought that was pretty much beyond the pale but what happened to you is way, way worse. My god.

          1. KellyK*

            When I was in college, I worked the phone bank, where current students call alumni and parents to hit them up for money. We had little thank-you cards with our pictures on them. When the manager met me for the first time, having only seen my picture, she said “Wow, you look so much better in person.”

            Other people thought that was an awful thing to say. My reaction was more like, “See! I’m not just being self-conscious! I really do take awful pictures.” People kept telling me that my photos looked fine and thought it was just me being down on myself, so it was weirdly vindicating to have someone agree that my photos looked awful.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Ha, someone said that recently about my driver’s license photo. In which I am auburn, and resemble the Michelin Man (bad angle and lighting). They said, “Oh. Uh, you look much better as a blonde.”

      4. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        +1 for a good attitude. :D

        Unfortunately, I’m rather camera-shy and most of my photos come out looking like a serial-killer’s mugshot, through a combination of poorly-choses facial expression and my complexion. I’m naturally pale with dark circles under my eyes, so the lighting in many photos washes me out and makes me look like Nosferatu. A chance to relax and maybe put on an expression that doesn’t scream ‘The man who took this photograph was never seen again’ would be very welcomed. ;P

        1. Charisma*

          As someone who is excessively camera shy myself, I have to admit that that had a little to do with the development of my system :) I also have eyes that are incredibly light sensitive and I do horrible with any camera flash. I look stoned in ALL my government issued photos!

      5. Kinder and Gentler Manager*

        Marketing here. :)

        It took me four years to finally get a budget for firm-wide headshots approved. During those four years, one of the biggest and most vocal criticisms of my department from employees were the headshots we used – we DID accept whatever photo people supplied to us.

        All of the headshots were finally uniform – same lighting, tone, backgrounds, composition. It was incredibly expensive, and for us, incredibly rewarding. Every single employee was given the final day of which photo would be used by them.

        The result was awesome – a completely polished, professional looking set of collateral that was head and tails above our competition.

        We had seven people complain. Three of them were very prominent – their headshots were highly visible on our website and in about 70% of our collateral. They wanted to use their old headshots, or provide new ones that did not match the lighting, composition and background of the new set because they didn’t like it. Two of them pooled their own “political capital” and the end result was us going back to old headshots – for EVERYONE. It was such a waste of money and resources, and it was looked at as a marketing failure.

        While it may not seem like a big deal, it is the kind of thing that derails an entire campaign or initiative, and those usually have very broad goals, i.e.: Change the brand so we look more polished and professional. One headshot that doesn’t look like the rest is the one that will stand out, and it will look like a mistake. Visible “mistakes” like that usually end up in Marketing’s lap.

        I am not saying they are right, I don’t know enough about how they usually are outside of this initiative. But sometimes context helps!

        1. Chloe Silverado*

          You just explained this so well! We just recently revamped our website and took new headshots of our executive team to achieve the cohesive look you described. Unfortunately, some executives weren’t happy with the results and wanted to continue using their outdated photos from 20 years ago. We now have a mishmash of old and new. It’s annoying for me to look at as a marketing person, but we made the internal stakeholders happy.

          For what it’s worth, I think if OP has a headshot on a solid background, it’s possible that it could be edited by a graphic designer to make it look more cohesive with other employees headshots.

          1. Kinder and Gentler Manager*

            I like to explain marketing as the one group whose job it is to keep one foot outside of the company looking back in. That has helped with a lot of the ‘internal vs external’ disagreements! (Except for the headshots. Which still frustrates the heck out of me – particularly since everyone is complaining again about how “unprofessional” our headshots are!!)

        2. Jesmlet*

          I’m wondering if they didn’t like the change/setting that was chosen or if they just didn’t like the way they looked… Also, 7 out of how many people total?

          We’re creeping towards doing this as well along with a major website overhaul and when we do it, I expect it to be collaborative, allowing everyone to voice their opinions first on what they should look like, then during the actual shoot, have the photographer show them the shots and make sure they’re happy. If you’re gonna shell out the money, might as well make sure everyone is happy with the final result before it goes to print so to speak.

          1. Kinder and Gentler Manager*

            Nearly 1,000!

            For many of them, they didn’t bring up not liking their headshot until they saw it in context of everyone else’s headshots – ie: they approved the use of one of theirs, were fine with it, then saw it up with others and hated it. I honestly wondered how much of it was them being overly critical of themselves – I know I am. I hate most pictures of myself! However, I know I have to put that aside for professional settings.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Yeah this sounds like a self-esteem thing/comparing themselves to other people more than anything else, in which case, talk to your therapist or your family members, not the marketing department. This is really unreasonable. No one should have so much political capital that they can throw out that much money and affect that many people.

            2. AJaya*

              1000! I feel your pain! When my company rebranded I had to coordinate headshots for our entire firm, and it wasn’t half the size of yours. When it is that many people it is extremely difficult to please everyone, especially with a professional photographer and you are constrained by time and budget.

        3. Manders*

          Also in marketing here! I was a naive young marketer and I was NOT expecting people to get so territorial about their headshots. I work in a law firm like OP, and I think that may be adding an extra element of people not understanding why this is necessary/getting peeved at being pulled away from their work to be photographed.

          Lately, I’ve been noticing nice sets of headshots on company websites. When you see professionally taken photos that show some personality, it just pulls the whole site together. But I learned the hard way that there are some fields where the marketing department’s just not going to have the political capital to get that done.

      6. Purplesaurus*

        Maybe my organization was just way more concerned about making people feel good and about how people were presented to the outside world than most?

        This makes sense to me, because I assumed this is the entire purpose of marketing departments – at least the presentation to the outside bit. So I don’t understand why so many of them are overly strict about taking photos for this kind of thing. Why wouldn’t they want good looking head-shots of employees to highlight that they’re doing their job well?

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          But the thing is, there are too many people out there who will think any picture of them is horrible. People aren’t really a good objective judge of themselves and what they do/should look like. Marketing is invested in an attractive and appealing website, and isn’t going to choose pictures that make people truly ugly.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            I know there are people who won’t be pleased no matter what, but I also know there are perfectly reasonable people who have very bad pictures from a “one snap, no do-overs” type of policy. For example, ours do not retake badge/email pictures **ever** resulting in 30+ year-old photos in the worst cases.

            1. Turquoise Cow*

              This was the case at my old job. Some of my managers had been there for 20-30 years and their photos were not updated. They had gained weight and lost hair and gone gray and no longer looked much like themselves in the photo. If they were really used for security purposes it would have been a problem!

              We thankfully never had our photos on the website. I forget if the CEO did, but we were constantly changing the executive team so I suspect that if they did, a lot of times the photo was missing.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              I would suggest there is a difference between security badges and even email shots and a website. No one outside the company sees your security badge and even on email, my own professional reputation isn’t resting on it. Any web designer who cares at all about their own reputation or marketing department isn’t going to put out ugly website pictures. It’s not impossible, of course, but it’s far more likely that the picture is fine.

              The OP didn’t even say the policy overall is strict- only that Marketing is unwilling to do this for her specific pictures.

      7. General Ginger*

        I am really awful at keeping my eyes open in photos. I’d love a system like you have!

      8. MsCHX*

        I’ve only had one job so far that I had to take a headshot for and he was really good about taking a bunch and reviewing them with you.

    2. Casuan*

      OP3: You’re not being petty, especially because you offered a reasonable alternative that would cost nothing to your employer.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      And maybe all the photos weren’t great and that’s why they seemed upset.

      Yeah, if they’ve gotten a ton of complaints from people, I could see them coming off this way to the OP. If they hired services to get good shots and the shots are garbage, I’d be a little annoyed too – not at the employee(s) complaining, but at the situation. Maybe that’s all it is.

    4. Lora*

      Agree, this is not at all petty.

      Where I work now, the CEO’s wife is a photographer, and she does portraits of everyone who is a full time employee and they are hung by the office area. I’m not hideously ugly or anything, but I just do not photograph well. People rarely recognize me from a photo, any photo, no matter who took it. Some people just don’t translate well in 2D.

      At most photo sessions, people walk in, smile, click click click, done. At mine, she took a picture, looked at it, frowned, took another picture, frowned at that one, asked me to move a little…for several minutes. I said, don’t worry about it, I’m just not photogenic at all, Steve Buscemi is my spirit animal. She insisted “oh no! I think you’re very pretty!” OK, I’m just saying I am not so in love with my portrait that I need to have it on the wall, it’s fine.

      The result, which took many weeks longer than everyone else’s to appear, was not good. I’ve had better photos taken while tipsy at a nightclub with friends. I’ve had better photos taken for passports. It was really bad. She hung it up with the others, but sort of buried in the middle. I’d rather she just missed me entirely.

      Companies, what is your deal with the whole photo thing? Link to a social media account or something so folks can see the person’s professional credentials and move on with life.

    5. Cathie*

      One of Peg Bracken’s etiquette books says that the most gracious thing you can say when you are looking at someone’s photo is “Well, it doesn’t really flatter you, but at least its a record of the occasion” That’s because EVERYBODY hates their photos — no, do I really look like THAT???
      Then again, sometimes photographers or Marketing make the wrong decisions — I remember one time our university was taking photos of the senior team and staff, and they decided wouldn’t it be nice if everybody was photographed outdoors in the sunshine — you guessed it, the ones who had photo-sensitive glasses ended up looking like the Mafia.

      1. Mike C.*

        “It doesn’t flatter you” is really a great phrase for a whole bunch of different occasions, especially the “does this outfit look good on me”. It really avoids the superficial insulting nature of a yes/no answer and gives the person asking a really useful and honest answer. It also shifts the blame onto the clothing/picture/whatever rather than judging the person themselves.

    6. AK*

      I think we often see ourselves quite differently than others see us. I’d suggest that, before you expend any political capital on getting your headshot changed, you check with some trusted friends and colleagues to see what their impression of the photo is. Maybe it just looks bad to you, but others think it’s a really nice photo. What does your husband think of the photo?

      Back when I was in high school, every member of the graduating class got to choose a photo to go with a half-page write up of their choice. I recall having a huge debate with my best friend about which pictures we should choose. The one I thought was nicest one of me was different than the one she thought was the nicest, and vice versa.

  8. azvlr*

    #3 – When I was a high school senior, I had my senior photos taken by my graphic arts/yearbook teacher who moonlighted as a photographer. A few weeks later, the school sent groups of us to the cafeteria to pick up/pay for the photos taken by the school-appointed company. It was kind of an assembly-line process. I respectfully declined to purchase my photos. The sales person got really snippy with me and said, “If you don’t purchase your photo, you won’t be in the yearbook.” I was already having a bad day, on account of the assistant principal flirting, who was judging me for my life choices and flirting with my mom, who was a teacher at the school. It was quite a satisfying moment to say, “I’m the yearbook editor, and I decide which of my photos goes in the yearbook!”
    All that to say, I wonder how much pressure the professional company is putting on your Marketing department to use their photos?

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      That is so strange. We let the Seniors submit their own photos (they had to have a blue or grey background- no exceptions) and for everyone else, the school-sponsored company took everyone’s pictures and they were given for the yearbook regardless of any purchases. You wouldn’t get copies of the pictures, but they would be in the yearbook.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        My high school did exactly the same thing that azvlr describes. It was just a strong-arm sell for the photo company to have a built in “demand” for their extremely strange and antiquated profile photos (and you could submit your own photo, still, if you waited until the very last minute when it was impossible to pay for the ones provided by the company).

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Since the person who owned the yearbook company the school went through was the husband of the teacher co-advisor, and they were later found guilty of the usual improprieties you’d expect from that (inflated pricing, lying about and refusing lower competitor bids, etc) I am only really shocked that they never tried that scheme too.

          Maybe they decided we were too poor an area for it to work. Most likely it just never occurred to them.

        2. General Ginger*

          Yeah, at my high school it was the same. If you wanted to sub in your own photos, you had to wait for the order period for the company ones to expire.

    2. INFJ*

      Yeah, I definitely got the sense that they want to use the photos taken because they had paid for them/the photographer.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I doubt it’s the professional company putting on the pressure. More likely Marketing is trying to achieve a uniform look, so their options are to use the OP’s (bad) photo or pay the same photographer to retake the photo. I can kinda see why the marketing folks don’t want to spend more time and money for OP to get a better photo, but it does suck for the OP.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah, I think this is it. At my work we’re trying to compile a file of 100% matching professional headshots. Even though I’ve had my headshot taken professionally, and liked it very much, I still had to have my picture taken by the person hired at work because they want them to all match. Additionally, it might be that they want them to all be recent and of a consistent quality; if they let people submit their own pictures, you can’t control how old the pictures are, what the background color is, what the quality of the photography is, how edited the picture is, etc. Marketing departments tend to like consistency (perhaps to the detriment of other values).

    4. Episkey*

      I didn’t even have senior photos taken. And no, I wasn’t in the yearbook. The world didn’t end.

    5. Kate*

      That is a good point. I also wonder if anyone in marketing is related to the photographer? “Hurt” seems an extreme feeling for an issue concerning company website photos. Goodness, this is my second “suspicious” comment today.

  9. Junior Dev*

    OP1, you have my sympathies. I also have mental health struggles and I also hate hate hate taking personality tests for work. I think Alison’s advice to keep things focused on some specific professional goal is good.

    I’ve talked about my dislike of personality tests before and I think some people are just Test People–they see such tests as positive or neutral–and some, like you and I, are decidedly Not Test People. The difference has a lot to do with personal experiences that most people don’t want to discuss at work, and it’s helpful to me to try and remember that my co-worker who told us all to take the Meyers Briggs wasn’t trying to trigger unpleasant memories or pick on my insecurities, he was trying to improve communication in the office, and in a functional workplace people will be ok with changing the subject to the actual goal of the tests. (In a non-functional workplace people may be weird about it, but I think this is one of those circumstances where aggressively giving people the benefit of the doubt and responding as though they hadn’t just made the conversation about you and the darkest corners of your personality can help bring the conversation back from a borderline inappropriate place.)

    1. MsSolo*

      I find with the Myers Briggs the useful thing to remember is it’s compete bollocks! At best, it’s a measure of 16 different moods, at worst it ranks somewhere between horoscopes and ‘what harry potter wand should you wield’ for being reductive and based on no science whatsoever designed to part gullible companies from their cash. I’m off to do it again next month, and it’s a nice day out of the office with nice people, but I’ll learn more about my colleagues hanging out with them there than from the results.

      1. INFJ*

        While you certainly can decide that MB is not for you, please be respectful of professions that use these tests, professions that ARE science-based (e.g., psychology), but are often not taken seriously. It is really insulting to compare them to horoscopes and magic.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          I think MsSolo was just remarking on how some people take it *too* seriously.

          Myers Briggs is interesting and a neat way to frame personalities, but there are definitely those who use it as a Life Guide and will base every decision on it (what field should I go into? will this person and I get along? etc etc)

          1. MsCHX*


            I don’t think it helps to go to either extreme…Personally, I’ve “tested” as an INTJ 3 different times…at age 19, 29 and 37. And whenever I read about INTJs it’s so “me”…But I wouldn’t consider it some sort of “personality bible” for my employees.

        2. paul*

          The actual psychologist and therapist I know are fairly skeptical of Myers-Briggs FWIW. There’s not a ton of empirical evidence backing them up AND they tend towards fairly malleable definitions of personality type so there’s a lot of wiggle room.

        3. Purplesaurus*

          I was under the impression that modern psychological sciences largely reject, or at least question, the utility of MBTI.

        4. Observer*

          Any profession that uses tests that are so clearly NOT science based really can’t complain when their profession is seen as not scientific.

          They Meyers Brigs tests is utterly unscientific. You can’t base a practice even partially on clearly unscientific tests and then claim scientific basis for what you do.

        5. DSM-LXIX*

          Speaking as a PhD candidate in clinical psych, I’d like to point out that academic psychology has long moved away from the Myers-briggs test because the test is neither (1) reliable nor (2) valid. Reliability and validity are two pillars of testing in psychology (definition here:

          Not reliable means that people tend not to get the same result when retaking the test after a short period of time (e.g. ENTJ – > ENTP). Not valid means the test isn’t measuring what it intends to (e.g) . The latter is harder to explain, so I hope this more thorough reddit comment is helpful:

          Thats not to say all personality testing is bunk. Personality psych focuses on the Big 5/NEO-PI test, which is more reliable and well validated. Many researchers (including me) and don’t take the Myers-briggs test seriously. That’s not to say the entire test is off –
          extraversion is an accepted construct and commonly measured.

        6. Mike C.*

          But the data supporting the effectiveness of those specific tests is seriously lacking! Pointing that out doesn’t indict the entire field of psychiatry nor does it imply that psychiatry isn’t science or evidence based.

          It’s insulting to the rest of that we must accept a flawed test results as though they are scientifically sound when the data doesn’t support such a conclusion. You might as well tell me that I can’t point out the scientific flaws in creationism or miasma theory because that’s offensive to some as well.

        7. fposte*

          Agreeing with Mike C. Lots of perfectly respectable professions do stuff that’s absolute bollocks, after all. However, it’s reasonable to compare a personality test that can’t predict anything to other personality lenses that can’t predict anything; MTBI, enneagrams, horoscopes are all interesting ways to talk about personalities and how they respond to stuff, and none of them will tell you how people will fare in your organization. If people think it’s disrespectful to have tests included in that group, then they need to get better tests.

        8. Chomps*

          The Myers Briggs wasn’t created using the currently accepted standards for creating tests, though. It was based on Carl Jung’s theories and expanded in some ways rather than being based on actual data from people. There are other tests that are much better, the NEO-PI being one of them.

        9. Kate*

          Actually, as my psychology professor pointed out, there is very little evidence that such tests have any real meaning.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        It’s also worth noting that there are lots of kinds of personality tests, and they vary dramatically in quality and predictiveness (I read a case study recently about a fast food chain, of all places, that uses a specific one they’ve developed that they’ve found to be _incredibly_ predictive of success on the job, to the point (for that, and other, reasons) they have an employee retention rate that is basically unheard of in the industry.

        There’s also a personal usefulness to some of them. MB doesn’t really resonate with me because my results have changed a lot over time, I tend to test in the middle of each category, and I get different results each time I take it. But it really resonates with some people, in a way that they’ve found useful. Personally, when I took Carson Tate’s WorkStyles test, at the end I was like “wow, there are so many things that make sense now about the way I operate at work.” I also recently took StrengthsFinder, which is probably one of the most scientifically rigorous of the bunch (not to say that it is 100% scientific or anything), and my results really resonated with me there too.

        Lots of those tests are a waste of time. But, if you have to take them anyway, try to keep an open mind; what all your friends call bollucks might really resonate with you in a way it didn’t with them, and prove useful!

        1. CMart*

          I worked for an upscale restaurant chain that also had an uncannily good hiring personality test. We all had different personalities, but obviously something about us jived quite well: if you made it out of the two weeks of training (weeding out the ones with a matching personality but a poor work ethic) you were almost guaranteed to be there 3+ years. Which in the restaurant industry is an eternity.

          It’s also very true that these test are just what you make of them. I have no idea what that particular test was looking for, but I had the highest “match” score they’d ever seen. The hiring manager told me that was encouraging, but not to get too big of a head about it because the only other person who had ever scored close to that high was a complete and total nightmare employee. Ha. It was good to hear that they clearly knew the test wasn’t a fool-proof system of getting a perfect employee. I wasn’t able to get a sense from OP#1 what degree of seriousness the manager puts into the results of these things.

        2. JulieBulie*

          “If you HAVE to take them anyway” then it sounds as though someone who has power over your career DOES take these tests very seriously, and will be making decisions about your employment based on your responses. That is not a trivial concern, and having an open mind about it won’t make that any better.

      3. Jesmlet*

        I think you’re probably exaggerating slightly to add to the humor but in general I agree. I took the test a couple times, once out of curiosity from one of my psych courses, and once because a company bases pretty much everything they do and how they interact on your “personality type”. What I got from the experience was a reductive and generic summary that kinda sorta fit with how I interact with the world, but people are so nuanced that basing any type of action on this test is a huge misstep. That’s not to say that all personality tests are useless but you’re going to get a hell of a lot more information from just talking and listening to people than having their answers to random questions scored on a somewhat arbitrary set of scales.

  10. AnonForThisOne*

    #1 – Oh how I loathe personality tests! I was recently sent one after a great phone interview for an admin job in construction and the first exercise was to rank a list of items from best to worst. The list included “a lover’s embrace”, “imprisoning an innocent person”, “torturing a person to death”, and (my personal favorite) “prostitution”. Never did hear back from them. Maybe I put a lover’s embrace too low on the list?! Priorities, y’all.

    I can totally relate to feeling kind of “middle of the road” when it comes to advancing. My husband’s salary can support us both, but I like working. I look for jobs with a stable company that aren’t insanely stressful and where everyone seems to enjoy working together. There’s nothing wrong with being perfectly happy with that, but maybe you could look into some new skills that you might want to learn or new duties you could take on? That way no one feels like you’re stagnating in your role and you still enjoy your work, I’m thinking. Good luck! :)

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      #1 Wow. I… think you must have been relieved when they didn’t call back.

      OP, you mentioned being into art and music. So maybe you could say something about creativity, I don’t know. I’m kind of bemused by the idea of using tests and never simply asking you how you like to work and communicate.

      1. AnonForThisOne*

        No tears were shed for sure haha! The job was posted on a popular job site and they used that interface to communicate with me – I wouldn’t be shocked if the assessment was an add-on option and they never looked at it themselves!!

      2. P_R*

        To play devil’s advocate–I’m not that into tests as a concept, but taking the Meyers-Briggs really gave me some insights into myself. For example, I’m a “thinker” versus a “feeler,” but because that’s all I know, I truly did not recognize that those are two distinct, equally legitimate types. I just saw it as “that person is making a bad decision, why aren’t they changing their mind after they know the facts?” It’s a sort of blind spot where people think of themselves as the default, which makes it hard to identify other “types” of people and the fact that they come to different conclusions because they just think of things differently.

        I think they do have value in that sense. It’s incredibly hard to self-identify and many people don’t have the self-awareness to understand why they like or dislike certain things–we can both say “I like honest feedback and coworkers who are competent and friendly” but mean completely different things by that.

        1. FiveWheels*

          This! INTP here and until I looked into MBTI I didn’t understand that extroverts were a thing, despite having several very extroverted immediate family members. I had no idea why people kept going out of their way to be passive aggressive and suck the energy out of me.

          That said I don’t think knowing a colleague’s type would be useful, even if the test had definite scientific validity. Be aware of how you function best and how your colleagues function best… You don’t need to know my letter code to know what gets me grumpy.

          1. Mookie*

            I had no idea why people kept going out of their way to be passive aggressive and suck the energy out of me.

            I think this is one of life’s eternal mysteries, actually.

        2. Artemesia*

          I know the science on MB isn’t that great, but it is fairly reliable (if not valid) and I have seen it used effectively. I was on a board once for a large professional association that got NOTHING DONE — it was awful. We had a consultant come in and do MB with the board and then array us on a line. It turned out that one other person and I were in one corner and everyone else was in another. The other guy and I were, let’s figure out what we want to do and get it done types; everyone else was in the dithering let’s think about it some more and process our emotions types. It became clear why nothing was getting done and helped the group move forward.

          There are simpler tests for this sort of thing that are also useful for helping groups think about the different strengths people bring to a group. They are not super valid, but the concept of difference is, and just discussing the strengths that go -getters, and blue skyers for example can bring to a project helped people get along and appreciate different contributions.

          But rank order ‘torture’, ‘cheating’ , a ‘lover’s embrace’? No thanks.

          1. Julia*

            I don’t mean to be mean or sarcastic here, but wouldn’t it have been obvious that most people in your group weren’t the decision-making types from attending the meetings? I mean, I never tested any of my co-workers or fellow students on the Myer-Briggs scale, but I still know who is going to hem and haw endlessly.

            1. Colette*

              There’s a difference between seeing someone dither and understanding that they’re dithering because they prioritize something (such as relationships with others ) other than getting the task done ASAP.

              I’ve said before that one of the main benefits I see from personality tests is simply understanding that other people see the world differently and prefer different ways of getting things done.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I think sometimes a test like this can help you realize both that other people work differently, and how to engage them a lot more productively. Around age 10 my son did one about learning style, and brought home the link and I took it, and we were in opposite corners of the graph. And that was really helpful, because I had just run into trouble explaining math to him, and seeing that he needed a lot of examples from which he generalized while I needed a theoretical framework from which I worked outward helped me to completely rework how I responded to his requests for help. And it got a lot less frustrating on both sides.

                Not everyone (especially 10 year olds) can explain how they learn or work best, even if they recognize it when it happens. Tests can give an “aha” moment of how to explain why A worked and B didn’t. (Though monthly tests seem way too frequent to provide any useful feedback, unless you just really need a lot of charts and graphs to demonstrate productivity.)

                Second example: in college, my roommate had to give a bunch of people MB tests. We discovered that none of the people in our friend group were J, which explained why we could never figure out where to meet for dinner. “Just be J!” became our mealtime rallying cry going forward.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yeah, I think this is really the value of a well-used test: it gives you a vocabulary for things that are otherwise difficult to describe, and from there makes it easier to adjust social interactions for maximum comfort for everyone.

              2. SarahTheEntwife*

                Agree. There’s a different solution to “relationships are more important than decision-making in this group” than “everything must be Just Right or we will keep dithering over some impossible ideal”.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  (That said, personality tests are still not necessarily a good way to figure out where the problems in a group are.)

            2. Artemesia*

              You miss the point. People tend to see other people who are different as ‘the problem’ or defective; the focus on the strengths that different ‘types’ bring to a project really helps a group move forward instead of just whining about ‘those people’ who always dither and never get anything done. Being a ‘plan the work, work the plan’ type as I am also has its disadvantages as in ‘get it done fast, get it done wrong.’ Some of the worst disasters in American industry and politics have come from people who charge ahead without thinking it through enough — so those ‘on the other hand’ ditherers have their importance. Making it about using each other’s strengths works a lot better than fussing about the people who ‘never get anything done.’ If feels sciency, even if the science is so so, the attitude isn’t.

              1. Julia*

                I’m still not sure a personality test is the way to go in situations like that, though…

                1. AMPG*

                  It’s one tool that can be used as needed to help clarify a way forward. There’s nothing wrong with using it as long as the results aren’t interpreted in a rigid way.

        3. Mike C.*

          That’s great and all but the whole point of the test is to categorize people in a specific and consistent way, and those tests don’t do that at all. You could have learned the same thing from a lot of different sources without have to take this test.

          It’s kind of like saying “hey, my car doesn’t work like a car should, but I sure learned a lot about how engines are supposed to work!” You could have just gone out and learned how engines worked without having to buy a car that doesn’t function as it should.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I think that’s where I fall. I actually have no specific feelings towards those tests one way or another but I am hard pressed to believe that they are the only or even best way to find out about strenghts, weaknesses, working style etc. If you have a little bit of empathy or observational skills, you can easily find out who, for example, gets stuff done immediately but with mistakes and who takes a long time but doesn’t make mistakes, and then act accordingly. And I also can’t imagine that someone who is always incredibly annoyed by, for example, a coworker’s slow response time is suddenly going to see that same coworker’s strengths just because they did a personality test.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              “If you have a little bit of empathy or observational skills, you can easily find out who, for example, gets stuff done immediately but with mistakes and who takes a long time but doesn’t make mistakes, and then act accordingly.” — it sounds like that was exactly what *wasn’t* happening. It’s very easy to say that we should be able to go about our lives in the most evidence-driven, direct way, but even if MB wasn’t the *only* tool that would have gotten them to the conclusions they needed to, it turned out it was the first thing that actually *got* them to that conclusion, which isn’t nothing. I don’t think you have to believe a certain test is the best or only way to get at some information or to solve a problem in order to think that those test might be useful sometimes, especially when nothing else is solving the problem (or, maybe you don’t even know there _is_ a problem!)

              1. fposte*

                It’s not nothing, but it’s also not necessarily worth the time and expense. Generally people doing these tests are expecting more outcome than that and are investing accordingly; if just the awareness that people respond differently to different things is considered success, just assign people a book.

                1. AMPG*

                  But why does it matter how you get to the conclusion, as long as you get there? And how is reading a book and coming together to discuss how to apply its teachings LESS of a time investment than a MB assessment? Any personality model type of workshop I’ve been in has been about 2-3 hours, tops, and was always really useful for most people involved, largely because it just started conversations about why we work the way we do and where our personal blind spots were, while giving us a common vocabulary for discussion. Reading a book would have been much more time-intensive than that, and wouldn’t have resulted in the same morale boost of going through an exercise together.

                2. fposte*

                  I’m a fast reader; I’m happy to change my statement to “Then read a Buzzfeed article” :-).

                  My point is that this isn’t free; it’s using finite resources of time and money that might be better spent on something else, and it’s doing so with no measurable positive outcomes. Even if between the test and the analysis we’re talking an hour per worker, that’s a lot of labor hours over a whole workplace; I’m not seeing clear info on how much it costs corporately but $50 per person seems to be on the low end of the likely ballpark.

                  To me saying “But it makes people more aware of difference” is like saying that a $1m wellness initiative is a success because makes people think more about their health, even though it didn’t make them healthier; I think it would be reasonable to argue whether that was $1m well spent.

              2. Myrin*

                Sure, and I agree with the above points that they can be interesting and a helpful tool when someone has these “blind spots” with regards to their self-awareness; like I said, I don’t have strong feelings about these tests one way or another.

                But the OP says that her company uses these tests “mainly as a means of determining how employees like to work and how they communicate” and that simply is something that a competent manager should be able to figure out without using personality tests – an open conversation with employees about their preferences and observing how they communicate, where they make mistakes, and what they’re especially good at sounds like a much easier and straightforward solution to this.

                1. AMPG*

                  This is definitely true – when I’ve seen these used successfully they’ve been part of team-building exercises, not deployed as a management tool. In fact, as a manager, once I had encountered a couple of these models, it wasn’t hard for me to fit my direct reports into them through general observation, without needing to have them actually take a test.

            2. fposte*

              Right. I can see the value in self-reflection and awareness of different styles, but these tests consistently fail to be predictive–which seems to be the one virtue that’s being extolled for them.

            3. FiveWheels*

              Understanding why someone else grates on me within a framework like the MBTI does actually reduce the grating. “Ah ha, this guy isn’t actually a douche, that’s just his stress reaction!” is, for me, a useful tool.

              I don’t think it’s any more useful in work than real life, but I do find it a good shorthand for explaining reactions. I asked a very extroverted, feeling friend recently how she would try to make me feel better if I was stressed.

              My ideal answer is leave me alone in a dark room and DO NOT ASK HOW I FEEL. For her, that would be the worst possible reaction. Without a tool like MBTI her opinion was “Five is weird, I like her, but she is weird.” A bit of a chat about types and she was more like “Ah okay, she’s still weird but at least in a way that makes sense!”

              Knowing if someone has gone quiet because they want to give you the silent treatment vs they’re concentrating vs they are too tired to deal with you can help people get along, because if nothing else it’s easier to know if they’re doing the behaviour AT YOU.

              YMMV of course, and it’s possible MBTI only describes a small proportion of the population. But yeah, understanding WHY people do something can make it much easier to be around a difficult person than just identifying WHAT they do.

    2. Gingerblue*

      That’s amazing. Every time I fill out a job application now I’m going to wonder how well my views on the relative merits of prostitution vs. torture mesh with the company’s…

      1. AnonForThisOne*

        *guffaws loudly* Seriously, everyone needs to be on the same page with this!!

      2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        I, for one, would never work for a company who doesn’t appreciate the rack, the pear, the thumbscrews, or a nice round of scaphism. /s

        (Don’t Google ‘scaphism’ if you’re squeamish or eating.)

        1. AnonForThisOne*

          I can never, ever un-know this now!! For testing purposes, this is definitely way, way worse than prostitution haha!

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      WHY? Why would they even think this was useful?! I mean, do they expect someone to actually rank “torturing an innocent person to death” at the top even if they actually thought that would be the best thing ever?

      1. that guy*

        I would be very tempted to do just that. If they’re going to waste my time with such a crazy-ass test, I might as well have some fun.

        1. AnonForThisOne*

          I was honestly disappointed that there was no essay question component, because I imagine some of the questions could have been potentially legendary.

      2. Emi.*

        Y’know, I don’t even want to work with people who would be willing to torture a guilty person to death.

        1. AnonForThisOne*

          Agreed! It was actually two separate items, i.e. “torturing a person to death” and “imprisoning an innocent person”, just so they could be really clear on where you stood. The most insane part was that the rest of the test was completely rational. I was actually a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to the promise of the first exercise, you know?!

      3. AnonForThisOne*

        Exactly! Maybe I wasn’t supposed to put that last?! Now, I don’t know for sure that the test was the reason I never heard back, but we had talked possible interview dates and the phone interviewer said that my qualifications lined up perfectly with what they were looking for and that she had really enjoyed speaking with me. I can’t even.

    4. Mookie*

      My ideal personality test is just a load of pretty faces, organized in groups of three, and I determine which of the three I F– M– and K–.

    5. General Ginger*

      Wow. Some of those items really don’t even seem like they are comparable to each other let alone have anything to do with performing admin job functions. I’m guessing not hearing back in this case was dodging a bullet.

      1. AnonForThisOne*

        I believe your guess is correct! It’s also very possible that they didn’t even bother looking at the actual test before sending it out, which is really not a great sign either.

  11. Julie Noted*

    OP1 – this might not be what’s going on at your company, but for what it’s worth:

    I am keen to understand the professional goals, communication preferences and work styles of my staff so that I can do my best for them. I don’t request personality tests or express disappointment at people who have middle-of-the-road preferences, but other than that the general description of your boss could possibly fit me.

    The thing is, I’m also very keen for my staff to be happy at work doing their best at a range of tasks with nice people, and have the perspective on life that you have. So when I want to understand the goals and preferences of someone I manage, it’s not disappointing at all if they don’t have an exciting, over-the-top-enthusiastic big hairy goal for progression up the corporate ladder and shortly thereafter saving the world. If our discussion involved you telling me that you like the team, you enjoy the variety of work, and you want to be able to do your best in the role you have, that’s no bad thing. If you can identify any parts of your work that you particularly enjoy, that’s good for me to know. There’s no need to share personal history. For me, hearing “I enjoy this role and want to keep doing well in it” doesn’t say indecisive and unambitious. I would think that, however, if your side of the conversation consisted of “Dunno. Nothing.”

    1. Judge Crater*

      I keep a pretty big separation between my work and private life. Not anything secret, but the things that I value in life are not job-related. I’m friendly with my colleagues, but don’t hang out with any of them. I like to do my work and then get on with the rest of my life.

      When asked for goals, maybe the right formulation is to say something like, “Life/Work balance is really important to me, but in my professional life I’d like to master software X or take on more responsibility in area Y.” That is, talk about a specific thing you like or are interested in at work, and perhaps you management may find some training and development money to increase you skills in that particular area.

  12. It's-a-me*

    I sympathise with OP #1, the first 2 paragraphs are me to a tee, except replace ‘personality tests’ with ‘growth plans’ – we’re forever being asked our goals and career path… but I have no ambitions in this regard. I don’t want to become a team leader or change to another department or become a specialist in Asia-Pacific teapot relations, I just want to keep answering phone calls about purchasing teapots in our teapot call centre. I’d be happy to expand into calls about coffee urns and mugs, maybe even cucumber sandwiches, but I don’t want to be a sandwich development manager or even a teapot sales team leader.
    I am happy right where I am, but apparently that’s not good enough – I don’t understand it because we can’t ALL go up the ranks.
    (As an aside – I tried transitioning sideways to another department, on loan for a project. Never again, because the backstabbing and blase attitude to service are not for me.)

    1. PX*

      I’d be happy to expand into calls about coffee urns and mugs, maybe even cucumber sandwiches,

      Well that right there is what you put on your growth plan! One year you might mention how you want to learn more about coffee urns, the next year its coffee mugs, and so on and so forth. If you’re smart you spin it as ‘wanting to be more of a generalist’ :P

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Bonus points if you can fit “diversify” or “knowledge portfolio” in there somewhere ;-)

    2. Queen of the File*

      Me too! I was ultimately let go from a small financial firm because I wasn’t seen as ambitious. In that case it was partly a personality issue (not just a personality test issue). I am also an arts person who had struggled mental-healthwise and financially all the way through school, whereas most of my coworkers were competitive extroverts who really cared about surpassing the Joneses. Our workplace culture was definitely of the work-hard-play-hard variety. Expressing contentment at your current station and expressing appreciation for actual work-life balance (rather than wealth accumulation) were seen as a lack of confidence and not being invested enough in the future of the company. In the end I was much happier at my next workplace where management recognized that not everyone’s heart’s desire is to be a CEO, and that’s totally fine.

      I think Alison’s advice and PX’s comment on what to do in this situation are good. If you’re not interested in moving up or sideways, just find some goals within what you’re doing now to talk about. If they still have an issue with that, then I think the issue is on their side.

    3. INFJ*

      I think so many more people than you’d think feel the same way.

      This OP’s question is timely for me, not so much the personality test part, but how the writer feels in general about not having a long-term plan except to keep doing a good job at a good place with good coworkers. Certainly not everybody will be a good manager, so why should everyone want to aspire to that? (In my department, I’m learning that that’s the case: you either get promoted to management, or… find another position, I guess?)

    4. AMPG*

      As someone in middle management, it’s actually kind of frustrating when everyone wants to move up, because you end up losing high performers just because you don’t have anywhere else for them to go (unless you get lots of turnover higher up the chain, and then you have a different problem to deal with).

      On the other hand, when I was a new supervisor, I had a hard time figuring out how to motivate a direct report who didn’t want to move up, because that was what motivated me, and I didn’t know what to do with someone who had different goals. But I learned that there are lots of different types of professional development that don’t necessarily require a promotion. I would be very skeptical of an organizational culture that insisted moving up was the only acceptable professional goal.

      1. Michele*

        FWIW, I have a direct report who doesn’t want to move up. If she moves up any higher, she will have to supervise people, and she has made it clear that she does not want to do that. The biggest motivator for her is being treated with trust and respect. She had a hard time with her last couple of supervisors and had a reputation as being difficult. I have found, however, that if I trust her to do a good job and respect her opinions and years of experience, as well as make sure she has the tools she needs to do her job, she is a high performer. I have noticed a tendency in my department to look down on people who don’t supervise others, and I think that was causing problems.

  13. that guy*

    Personality tests. Ugh. A while ago some of the managers in our company discovered this personality test thing and subjected their underlings to it. The results were weird. For one of my colleagues “attention to detail” was listed as a negative. Apparently you can be TOO attentive to detail. Who knew.
    I didn’t have to go through that. My manager didn’t care. Oh, he asked about goals, and I told him. “More of A and B please, and less of C, because I don’t have the personality to do C.” Then he gave A and B to the other guys and I got more of C. My next manager was the same.

    I don’t have any real advice. Maybe try to explain that you’re OK where you are. And if you feel bold, maybe tell them that you think constant personality tests are somewhat pointless.

    1. Ann O.*

      Yes! I encountered that, too. I had a performance review where I was pressured for goals despite explaining that I loved my job, was happy, and had no desire to do anything else. You’d think this would make a company happy, but nope. (of course, I got reorged into a different role where I’m miserable, so maybe that’s why my manager wasn’t happy to know how happy I was in my old role)

    2. that guy*

      My new boss and I have to I have to have another of these “goals” discussions on Wednesday. Everybody in the company is forced to do this by some head office HR person.

    3. WhirlwindMonk*

      >For one of my colleagues “attention to detail” was listed as a negative. Apparently you can be TOO attentive to detail. Who knew.

      You absolutely can. I work as an estimator in a particularly large industry. Companies come to us requesting to buy large, custom-made industrial equipment, and my job is to estimate how much it would cost us to build that equipment so our salesmen can set a price that earns us some money but still sells. At both my current company and my previous one (where I did the same work), I have worked with someone who has way too much attention to detail. Especially at previous job, these estimates have a pretty quick turn-around time, and if you sit there counting bolts and screws to try to nail an exact price down to the penny, you simply cannot get the work done on time. It is and was a constant frustration working with these gentlemen because the rest of us always have their stuff dropped on us at the last minute, half done, because they spent too much time in the minute details.

      1. MsCHX*

        Yep. My predecessor got almost nothing done because she was always going over every.single.detail, over and over again, and with a fine-toothed comb.

    4. Pommette*

      There absolutely is such a thing as too much attention to detail!

      I’m one of those people who are naturally super attentive to details. That tendency has been a huge burden in my professional life. I’m always struggling against it, with uneven success. The best case scenario is that I manage to finish things on time, and hand my reports in while feeling guilty and frustrated about all of the details that I have not had the opportunity to adequately deal with. The worst case scenario is that I don’t manage to get things done on time.

      In any field, there is a happy medium between speed and attention to detail.

    5. Turquoise Cow*

      Echoing what’s already been said, you definitely can have too much attention to detail. The key is to know how much time to spend on *important* details rather than unimportant ones. I’ve had coworkers who would spend hours on a the particular aspect of a task that was the least important. I’ve also had coworkers who wasted time looking into details and wasting time by checking to see if details entered previously were correct, thus taking on jobs and tasks that weren’t theirs — while not actually doing the task that needed to be done.

      In each case, the end result was delayed. Sometimes this was no big deal, and other times this was an urgent task that should have been pushed through with minor errors that could be fixed later.

      I’ve often maintained that the key to being successful (in this particular field, but others as well, I suspect) is prioritizing. Rush through the unimportant things and spend time on the important things. Too often I see people getting those confused and slowing the process entirely.

  14. Boo*

    #2 as someone who was brought up a JW, it sounds to me like Birdy is being a bit of a jerk.

    No they don’t do birthdays etc, but if anyone passed me a card or gift for a holiday I didn’t participate in, I was taught to politely say thank you. If asked then I’d explain what my beliefs were. There’s no need for any print outs.

    It’s kind of you to be concerned for Birdy but I’d go directly to HR with this since a) it’s against company policy and b) JWs can be very sensitive to the possibility of persecution and I think speaking directly with her could be more trouble than it’s worth for you or Kitty, especially if Kitty has had run ins with her before. Let HR enforce their own policy.

    1. OP #2 re Birdy and Kitty*

      Thank you for the “insider’s” POV :)
      And yes, my worry was because Kitty and Birdy have had run-ins before. Kitty isn’t currently in this department and only because aware of Birdy’s print out because I mentioned it :/ I didn’t know she’d have that reaction. Apparently she has reported her before. Then I felt bad. Then I wrote in to AMA. Gah.

      1. Czhorat*

        That Kitty was offended only after the pointed out by you and, apparently, had to seek it out in order to take offense hints that she isn’t blameless in this either. I get the impression that she *wants* a fight on this.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Assuming that Birdie’s materials violate the rule against posting religious materials, I don’t think Kitty’s motivations need to come into it. Rules like that should be enforced consistently across the board. I don’t think we have enough info here to say Kitty is looking for a fight, just that she learned about it from the OP and has complained before.

          1. Czhorat*

            Mindless adherance to rules is not always a virtue; I CAN see this as realigning Birdy with expectations about separation of religion and work, but can also see it as a bit of a witch-hunt against a religious minority pushing back against a culture they find uncomfortable.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Of course it’s not always a virtue, but I think it is in the case of a policy like this. You can’t base enforcement on whether or not someone is offended or whether that offense is righteous (or whatever you’re getting at with respect to Kitty’s motives). Certainly the policy should not *only* be enforced against Birdy, but if that is the case, the solution isn’t to stop enforcing the rule, and the problem probably goes above the OP’s paygrade and beyond the scope of the question.

            2. Observer*

              If the description is accurate and the materials posted actually describe all those who don’t share the beliefs as ignorant heathens, rather than just an implication, then the policy should definitely be enforced regardless of Kitty’s motivation. That kind of stuff is generally offensive – the only reason the OP is not offended is because she seems to think that the whole discussion is stupid. But, most people are not going react that way, and legitimately so.

              Of course, as others have noted, if the policy is not evenly enforced, that’s a much bigger issue.

            3. paul*

              If someone’s pretty blatantly violating a really non-intrusive policy (i.e no religious materials displayed at your desk) then it’s worth enforcing regardless of why the complainer complained IMO

      2. bloo*

        It doesn’t sound like Boo is an insider but a past Witness. The only exception is take to his/her comment is that JW’S are sensitive to persecution. I’ve been a Witness for 24 years (I’m 43) and have been taught to be *less* sensitive to perceived persecution. This situation doesn’t rank at all as persecution.
        If Kitty feels she needs to go to HR, she should, but she does appear to be looking for trouble.
        FWIW, our literature is informational. It is *not* accusatory. That would hardly encourage anyone to listen to us.

        1. Boo*

          I was a witness for 19 years, so I think my experience counts for something.

          I also said JWs *can be* sensitive to persecution. Not all of them, but I know I was certainly taught to expect a fight over my faith wherever I went whether at school or later at work. When you expect it, you can be overly sensitive to it so it’s possible that Birdy will interpret company policy as persecution, which is why I advised OP to leave it to HR. I don’t think reporting a violation of policy is looking for trouble either.

          OP also stated that it looks like something Birdy has typed herself rather than official Watchtower publications. I do find this odd on several levels – if Birdy feels duty bound to preach at work then surely she would welcome questions. Putting up a printout to stop questions doesn’t therefore make much sense to me.

          1. SignalLost*

            Putting up a printout that directly insults non-members of one’s faith isn’t designed to stop questions.

            1. Clinical Social Worker*

              I don’t know about you but I have trouble having civil discourse with folks who insult me.

          2. bloo*

            It makes sense from the standpoint of not wanting to use too much time at work explaining her beliefs.
            I’m very conscious of using break-time or when I’m off to answer questions because my employers don’t expect me to use significant amounts of time to explain my beliefs when I’m questioned.
            With yesterday being Mothers Day I was asked numerous times by coworkers how my Mother’s Day went. I smiled, explained I don’t observe Mothers Day, but had a great weekend. Since everyone who asked me was also a mother, I asked if they enjoyed their holiday and they shared the details with me. I’d have liked to go in more detail when they asked but my job requires a lot of multi-tasking and customer contact, so standing around talking just can’t happen.

            The printout isn’t big deal as we have a huge amount of our literature available for download on, so printables aren’t worrisome. But as our literature would never insult non-witnesses by calling them heathens, the print out *is* worrisome.
            If the rules are that she needs to take it down, then I’d agree with letting HR handle it.
            Also, I agree with another commenter that explained that Birdy likely has a personality problem; this is not a JW problem.

    2. Allypopx*

      I was also raised a JW and yes, Birdy’s behavior is outside the norm and a bit high and mighty for how JW are usually taught to behave in “the world”. Also the word “Heathen” is very rarely thrown around because JW tend to pride themselves on the historical accuracy of their beliefs and heathen has a very specific meaning that wouldn’t be technically correct in most settings. They really like to be technically correct.

      Religion is a touchy thing, definitely involve HR.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m not totally clear on whether the poster actually said that non-JWs are actually “heathens” or if that was the OP’s interpretation of it.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I’ve worked with Jehovah’s Witnesses before without a problem. I made sure they weren’t asked to sign birthday cards, and so forth. On occasion I’d say that they were welcome to join us for Random Cake in the breakroom.

  15. Marcy Marketer*

    #3, I get what you’re saying about wanting your headshot to look nice, but I just want to share where marketing might be coming from. Where I used to work we had 200 employees and photos were my #1 issue with coworkers. People didn’t like their photos, missed the email about the professional photographer, missed make up day, wanted me to use their photo from last year, wanted me to use a photo of them and muppets, of them with their granddaughter’s head cropped out, of them at the beach…. each time I would explain the policy (background uniformity) and let them know about the retake day, and more than half the time I would get pushback.

    I get it. My first year there I forgot about picture day (marketing doesn’t organize it, the pictures are used for a lot of things), and I looked pretty bad. But you live and learn, and if I cared that much I’d hopefully try to look nicer for the next picture day. Does your company take photos on a schedule? If not, next time a new person is hired you can ask to have your picture retaken then, too. You can also ask the photographer to see the photo before leaving, and then ask for a retake if you don’t like it.

    If it helps, unless your picture’s file name is your name, it’s unlikely the photo would show up in Google search results when looking for your name.

    1. kittymommy*

      This is an excellent point. What might seem relatively quick and easy to one person is not necessarily so to another. I’ve had people request me to “tweak” something with the excuse that it will only take a few minutes, but if I have 50 people asking for “a few minutes” that’s a lot of time.

    2. Beancounter Eric*

      May I ask a really dumb question on the topic of employee photos, please?


      Why would a company want to have professional photos of all employees, not just customer-facing individuals?

      I’ve worked for a few companies where customer-facing employees had a professional photo, and one where all managers had a photo on the company website. (Thankfully, in the three years I was a manager there, they never got around to doing my photo.)

      Just curious -thanks!!

      1. Giles*

        I know in our case, we use them for RFP responses – when we have to do bios for everyone that’ll be on the team, even if those people never actually meet the client.

      2. Marcy Marketer*

        In my particular case, we are a school, and we wanted to humanize our subject pages– list of English department teachers and their pictures, for example. There’s also something to be said for parents being able to put a face to a name.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        In general, I think people (clients, potential employees, donors, customers, etc.) like to make a human connection. I often look people up on the websites of companies or organizations I work with, just for the heck of it.

        An example: When I’m considering a job, I care about what the organization wants to tell me about itself. I care about the diversity of the staff. No folks of color? No women in leadership? Nobody under 50? I’m going to be skeptical.

      4. Chinook*

        I am one of those who loves employee photos for all employees because, frankly, I can’t remember names but I do remember faces. There are too many people that I have conversations with from other offices who then email me a follow up and I am stuck not remembering who they are. The moment I look them up in our company directory, though, I can remember the conversation because I see their face.

        On top of that, for security reasons, we need to verify if the random person from another office who shows up actually is said person. Checking the directory quickly for a photo helps.

  16. Ty*

    I am one of Jehovahs Witnesses.

    It’s inappropriate for Birdy to be posting our materials at her desk if she’s been requested not to since it’s an office wide policy. I have reading material at my desk quite a bit but it’s not ‘posted’ bulletin board style, it’s there because I read it myself. If someone chooses to ask about me or my beliefs, I’ll talk about it (and some do). But I’m there to use my time to do my job. We’re taught to use appropriate time for preaching, but also taught to be honest with our work time and abide by employers standards (as long as they are compliant with the law of course).

    1. bloo*

      I agree. That’s generally how I conduct myself, not just at work but with non-Witness family and friends. And I’ve always had good working relationships with colleagues and bosses. Partly because I actually like people, partly because my religion has helped me to deal with people, even the difficult ones, in a kind and fair way.

    2. ZeddicusMortis*

      Though not a member of The Society at all, I was raised as a witness and I understand and appreciate their values. I doubt that a legit poster from The Society would use the words ” uneducated heathens”. Either LW is grossly exaggerating (which I suspect), or the poster is from an inaccurate source. Though, there is nothing offensive about the term “pagan origins”.

      Ty’s comment is on the dot in this case. Work is not an appropriate place to preach and using company resources (be it time, bandwidth or ink and paper) is also wrong.

      If management/HR handles the situation correctly, Birdy shouldn’t be “persecuted” – merely asked to remove the material and addressed in a clear and direct way. If it is a repeat offense and there has been similar trouble in the past, she should be reprimanded.

      It would be wise to establish why she felt the need to put the poster up in the first place. Were tons of people expressing an interest, and she didn’t feel like explaining it numerous times or the poster just explained in a more eloquent way than she was able to? Were people making backhanded comments, and she resorted to this as a passive aggressive response?

      It sounds like Kitty might be a little too enthusiastic to take a stab at her. If she handles the situation like an adult, in a calm and responsible manner, attacking the problem in stead of the person or their religion, she would be addressing the issue correctly.

      It’s not easy belonging to a religious minority in the workplace. Any non-christian in a predominantly christian work environment should understand this (or Jewish/Muslim/etc). While I have no religious association, I have had to sit through countless prayers and bible readings before formal meetings in more than one workplace.

      Management should address what seems like an ongoing problem between Birdy and Kitty. And if they do apply this rule so strictly, it should be enforced across the board. That would mean that Kitty may not put up a crucifix or bible verse (or what ever else she deems fit) in her cubicle either, and neither may anyone else.

      1. General Ginger*

        The OP has already confirmed both that they are not exaggerating and that the materials Birdy put up are not “official materials”.

      2. Kate*

        LW posted up thread that the poster uses those exact words and looks like something Birdy typed up herself.

  17. Security SemiPro*

    I like work personality tests for precisely one reason: they remind people that everyone is different and that is okay. (Myers Briggs has the added benefit of decoupling “what you are comfortable doing” and “what you are good at”)

    “I want my job to pay for my life and be as stress free and pleasant as possible while doing so” is absolutely okay. There are roles where having absolute reliability on whatever is needed between the hours of 8 and 4 is perfect. I wouldn’t suggest a career in incident response, but as long as your current role isn’t up-or-out, your boss should be happy to have you and work on making sure you get the stability and solid team work you want.

  18. Trout 'Waver*

    I think I know why some managers go nuts on personality tests.

    I think it’s because personality tests are used in intro-level managing workshops and classes to teach a form of empathy. I’ve sat through a couple of these, and they always break the group up into their personality traits as assayed by the test. Then each group has to solve a problem to perform a task, and then comment on why they made the choices they did. This is meant to show that different people have different approaches to problem solving and have different needs to help them overcome challenges. This basic lesson eludes a surprisingly large number of people making their way into management.

    However, some people miss the point of the lesson. Some people think, “If only I knew which personality group, totem animal, or Harry Potter wand this person was, I would know to lead them.” Or even worse, “….I would know who to fire and who to promote.” When the true lesson is meant to be more general: Everyone has individual needs, preferences, and traits, and if you understand them you can better lead and manage their work.

    Just my two cents. I’ve been through a couple of these and they do appear to be quite productive when properly taught.

    1. Allypopx*


      “Different people need different styles of being managed and here is some insight into how that works – remember, not everyone learns the same way you do!” is so different from “This person is easier to manage because they think like you/have more mainstream ways of problem solving, and are therefore a better employee. Promote them forever!”

      I really wish entry level management teachings focused more on the first part and less on grouping people. Grouping can have an unconscious us vs. them effect.

      …Says the self proclaimed hypocrite with a Slytherin water bottle on her desk. But I don’t promote based on HP houses!

        1. Allypopx*

          :) Why would I want nothing but a team who shares my drive and ambition? They might try to lead a coup!

    2. Trillian*

      Yes. My reaction was, “Wow, I missed so much doing it my way. I need these people around me!”

      Of course, being someone who also needs quiet to hear myself think, I have to square that need with the wish that they’d stop talking! Open plan offices, sigh.

    3. Lora*

      ” to teach a form of empathy”

      90% of managing is really dealing with people and soothing the shriveled souls of the difficult personalities and the careful application of politics and suppressing your own emotions and animal instincts that would normally compel you to wax wroth and smite your colleagues with the Stapler of Justice. And when you go higher up it’s more like 99%. If you’re good you can sort of craft policies and mechanisms to make something into a business process rather than the usual Lord of the Flies situation that arises. Most managers are not good – most have been thrown in the deep end with no training or education in how to manage people, and subject the rest of the company to their mistakes and follies as they climb the learning curve.

      Most people learn empathy at age 4. Most people learn that there are all sorts of folks in the world when they enter grade school and meet many different children. I rather feel that if a grown adult has not yet learned this lesson, probably they should not be in charge of other people. When I am queen of the universe, I shall rectify this.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This is how Exjob did it. And they made sure to stress that just because someone tests as S (they used the DISC one), that they actually can test as something else later due to what’s going on with them personally. The instructor used an example of a person who tested one way and after taking the test a year later, came out completely different. The first time, he’d been dealing with a very stressful personal situation and after it was resolved, everything changed.

      I don’t like when they’re used in hiring. If it has nothing to do with the job, then don’t waste my time. Same with general knowledge tests–I had an interviewer give me one of these recently, and it was complete bullshit. None of the questions on it had anything to do with the job, and I didn’t get a call back because I made it clear how I felt about it.

  19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – I wonder if you’re hearing the expectation of “have some grand far-reaching aspiration” when what’s meant also encompasses “what are you working on next?” In my experience, there are always small, short-term goals you can work toward, whether it’s hitting a particular level of productivity in your current role, mastering a new side responsibility, or helping prepare for an upcoming shift in procedure. You might consider whether answering on that scale will satisfy what your boss is looking for.

    There’s a valid concern about stagnation that you want to avoid — in other words, letting yourself get too entrenched in what you’re doing right now runs the risk of leaving you unresponsive to change, and I think that might be what your boss is hearing when you state that you’re simply content where you are.

  20. 123456789101112 do do do*

    #3, I don’t know if it’s particularly relevant, but: My department at the university where I worked advertised a “headshot day” where there would be a photographer available to take headshots for people to use professionally (papers, conferences, faculty, whatever). I was really excited, as were many of my colleagues. Day comes and I’ve spent a lot of time on hair, makeup, clothes, things I don’t usually pay much mind to. The “photographer” was the marketing person with a pretty low-end point and shoot digital camera, there was no backdrop or professional lighting, and the photo ended up having a cinderblock background with a pipe visible above my head. It was awful. I never saw anybody in the department use their new headshot.

  21. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I think the *posting* of religious materials is the problem. I wouldn’t even care if someone was reading them at their desk or something, but I wouldn’t want to see tons of posters if I had to frequently go to their cube.

    Also, JWs really have to witness or whatnot a certain amount to stay in? I wonder how much that is and how it’s measured. Annually? Because I know these JW shop owners, in a Great Lakes tourist town, who must work 80-100 hour weeks in the summer season. When can proselytizing even happen in that case?

    1. Allypopx*

      There are people who volunteer themselves to going out in service as a full time gig, and they have a number of hours they’re expected to put in. My grandmother did this and she’d take me with her occasionally.

      But it’s not a requirement to be part of a congregation, no. People have lives and children and health conditions and congregations know that kind of requirement isn’t realistic.

  22. Allison*

    #3, You have my sympathies. I am horrendously un-photogenic, and while I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a couple photographers that can make me look human in pictures, I usually end up looking like a potato. If I had to have a specific headshot, taken by a company-hired photographer, for a website or my LinkedIn page, I’d probably try to accept that it’s not gonna look good. But I’m also not a high level executive, nor am I in a job where I need to attract clients with an online profile or bio. OP, if people go to the company’s bio page and select someone who work with them, you could argue that you need a good headshot to attract clients.

  23. Michele*

    OP#1–I hate personality tests as a result of a horrible boss who was obsessed with pigeonholing people based on them. It does sound as if despite the fact that your employer is way too dependent on them, your boss is interested in having conversations with you about your place in the company. Some employers are happy having people who are content to do the same thing year after year and become very valuable at it. This is especially common in areas such as laboratory work. If you work for one of those, tell him. If not, you can make a vague request about learning as much as you can and asking him if there are opportunities to learn new skills. You might find that there are aspects of the job that you weren’t aware of and have fun learning about.

  24. C-Suite Diva*

    #3 – It doesn’t sound like this is what’s happening in your situation but part of the push back I have experience (and given) with headshots is that many, many people don’t like the way they look and take that out on their marketing department. I know we’ve tackled over-correcting in Photoshop but I have been on the other end where people don’t like their hair, face, teeth, makeup clothes, etc., and somehow expect those not to show up in the final product. If your marketing team has dealt with even one person like this, that may be part of their resistance to giving you an inch.

    Now for some hopefully helpful advice – maybe ask them what their plans are for adding new employees and see if you can’t retake your headshot at some later date, with the understanding that won’t use your current pic or use one that you provide in the interim.

    1. Giles*

      As a marketing person, yes to all of this, and double yes to asking when they’ll be doing new hire photos. Sneaking a new one in of you at that time is perfect.

    2. mreasy*

      Some people really do photograph badly, though, and some have deep-rooted appearance-based insecurities. Marketing should be more compassionate and human and think of a backup plan in the event someone’s shot comes out very dissatisfactory. A placeholder until they have another opportunity to shoot? This is also on them.

      1. Giles*

        Well, it also depends on whether marketing thinks the shot is unsatisfactory or the person in it does. I had one person who insisted on having me take over 50 pictures because she was unhappy with every single one of them – the shoot took an hour and a half, and it normally takes five minutes!

    3. AJaya*

      From another marketing person who had to coordinate headshots for all staff when our company rebranded, I agree with C-Suite Diva’s advice. Most likely, there will be other opportunities to have your photo re-taken so you could try to arrange that.

      From my experience, many people were unhappy with their photos for one reason or another, but none of them were objectively bad. Also, no replacement photo that was ever suggested ever matched the quality, image resolution, or style of the professional headshots. It made our jobs so much harder when trying to reformat them for various uses.

  25. Allison*

    #5, Keep in mind that not all teenagers are the same. Your daughter is one teen, with a personality, goals, and a set of interests, and maybe she has dealt with some typical teen issues – body image, breakups, grades, etc. – but she doesn’t represent all teenagers. If you work with teenagers, you work with a number of different kids, of varying personalities, interests, professional aspirations (or lack thereof) and personal problems you may not be equipped to deal with. And working with those teens in a professional context is different from parenting teenagers. Most people don’t like it when someone who is not their mom starts acting like a second mom. It’s not sweet, it’s not comforting, it doesn’t make people feel all nice inside, it’s condescending and annoying.

    1. Lora*

      Oh yeah. I know an awful lot of parents who do not get the teenager they were expecting and are downright horrified that Junior is not (whatever) like they were as a teen.

      When dealing with large groups of teens, you will inevitably have some that have drug/alcohol problems, some who may be homeless, some with mental illness, some with home life problems (e.g. parent is an addict, kid is supporting the household financially, parent arrested or in prison, parent is neglectful of the kid’s basic needs), some with serious health problems, etc. You can’t possibly help them, they need a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor, a psychologist and all kinds of things you can’t provide. But you still have to deal with it. It will break your heart and scare the crap out of you at the same time. What employers are really asking is, have you seen all of that and know what you’re getting into.

  26. animaniactoo*

    OP1, I think you can get some traction by simply stating that your major goals are not work-related, and your work related goals involve being useful and valuable in the role you’re in at this time. So you’re up to take on things, and if there’s anything that boss would like to see you work on in terms of developing skills/duties, you’d be happy to know about that and tackle it. If you become interested in doing something more or moving in a particular direction, you’ll let her know, and in the meantime, you just want to do your job well.

    Rehearse this a lot though – because the thing that you don’t want to imply is that you’re not invested in the company, or your job there, so be very careful with your wording – but if you do it right, you’ll relax someone who is very invested in understanding what you want out of life. Because to them, they can’t understand wanting nothing and they’re relating to you in a work context, so they might need it spelled out that you do have a passion – it’s just not work related.

  27. Giles*

    #3 – marketing person here who does all our headshots: we get a little disgruntled mainly because it’s more work, which is really ridiculous of us but most of us are probably overextended. If your firm is anything like mine, we were probably happy that we didn’t have to do any photoshop/production on the professional photos (the photographer would’ve done it, most likely) and, by having to take your photo, now we have to do it to get a uniform background and look. Also, there may have been some costs involved! I know we just did a photoshoot and we were charged by the person for photos and post-production, and having that be for nothing can be frustrating. That said, you have total standing to push back and insist, and we (in marketing) just have to deal with it (assuming the photo you want to use isn’t so far away from the uniformity of the others in the company that we can’t ‘shop it to fit.)

  28. AEM*

    To the story about Jehovah’s Winesses: I am one. And I can tell you with certainty we never use the word heathen in our literature. As for the uneducated part, we acknowledge that a lot of the pagan origins are not everyday knowledge for many people, that’s why we bring it up, to defend our beliefs and potentially educate others.
    If the policy in the workplace says no to this kind of thing then I do think she needs to respect that. But the word heathen really isn’t even in our vocabulary. I’m sorry someone is so offended. But someone is exaggerating here about what the material really says.

    1. fposte*

      I read it as a paraphrase. I think the point is not paganism but the casting of aspersions of those who don’t follow the same faith.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      You’re drawing a distinction without a difference.

      1. AEM*

        I am only attempting to explain that we do not typically use words as harsh as ‘heathen’. Like there being a difference between saying “sorry, I disagree with you and here’s why” and “ugh you’re such an idiot I can’t believe you think that”.

        I have read the post that says that she likely wrote these things herself, which explains a lot, honestly. I just wanted to comment because we do endeavor to be kind to all people regardless of beliefs (or lack thereof) and calling anyone an ‘uneducated heathen’ is not our norm. Maybe I am splitting hairs. But after what has happened in Russia, I don’t like my faith being misrepresented.

    3. KellyK*

      The OP clarified that this the posting did specifically refer to people who celebrate birthdays as uneducated: “There was a line in there about non-JWs being uneducated and pagan in their ways and it being a path of sin.” The OP also mentioned that it looked like something Birdy had typed up herself, rather than official JW materials.

      1. KellyK*

        For that matter, pagan religions are still practiced. Birdy may very well work with neo-pagans of some stripe. In a work environment, it’s perfectly reasonable to say “Members of my religion don’t do X because it’s a practice of Y other religion(s).” But it’s not okay to disparage those other religions.

  29. Madame X*

    I think that personality tests (that are scientifically rigorous) are most useful for people who are in college, a training program or very early on in their career. I’m currently a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and I recently took a Birkman assessment as part of a career training program I’m currently participating in. I found it really helpful to identify what are my most important needs to feel content and productive, my most ideal work environment, and stress behaviors that lead to frustration and ineffectiveness at work. The results are then aligned with different career fields that work best with my needs, stressors and social contexts that I am most content/productive in. It’s also a helpful test to understand how other people perceive you and other people’s communication styles.

    This test is less known than the ubiquitous Myers-Brigg but in my opinion it is much better because it is more detailed and thorough. I don’t know how useful it would be for someone who is quite far along in their career and satisfied with with their current role. It certainly is not a replacement for a manager to actually have a discussion with their direct reports about their working styles and professional development goals. As a person who is currently trying to transition into a different career, I found it quite revelatory for outlining my interests, skills and goals with the right career and working environment.

  30. LoiraSafada*

    I’m kind of baffled to have seen multiple letters from people that think parenting is resume-worthy experience. Totally agree that it comes off as naive (though more than a little naive) and like the person is horribly out of touch with professional norms.

  31. Gov Mgr*

    Birdy’s materials sound like they cross the line into harassing others, but keep in mind that generally an employer has to demonstrate hardship to prohibit someone who asks to post religious materials as part of the practice of their sincerely held religious belief. It’s like saying someone can’t wear hijab or a kippah because hats aren’t allowed for anyone–that won’t fly as a sufficient reason. The EEOC helps employers drill down into determining what is appropriate and what is not and offers some examples.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, but there is a difference between clothing and posting religious materials, especially when those materials explicitly denigrate others. And, the OP says that there is actually a line that does so.

      If nothing else posting religious materials may very well burden other people’s religious practice. This is something that Birdy should think about – If she posts HER religious stuff, what does she think is going to keep someone from hanging up a crucifix in their cubicle?

      1. Gov Mgr*

        Right. Agreed. But the EEOC points out that an employee can hang up a crucifix in their cubicle, absent undue hardship to the employer, if it’s part of their religious practice to do so. Harassing others is undue hardship, but just posting something isn’t necessarily one. The “Jesus Saves” example in the link is a good one. The line denigrating others or purporting to represent the company is likely the line to draw in the sand. I just want to flag that as many respondents are drawing a firm line on “no religious materials” and that might not be a legally defensible position.

        1. Kate*

          Sometimes the EEOC is wrong though. The EEOC, as I understand it, makes suggestions about how certain laws should be interpreted, but have absolutely no say in how they *are* interpreted, which is up to the judicial branch.

          For example, the EEOC stated that an employer could not demand that an employee forgo a hairstyle typically associated with a particular race. They brought to court a case of a woman who, after being interviewed with (I think) dreadlocks and offered the job, was told she couldn’t wear her hair that way. She turned down the job, and with the support of the EEOC decided to sue the company. The court ruled against the EEOC because “hairstyles can be changed and are not an immutable part of one’s race”. As I recall they also said that if the company had demanded she straighten her hair, that would have been over the line, because her hair’s texture, is an inseparable part of her race.

          There was a similar ruling about hair I think, when the EEOC got proven wrong by the courts.

          TL;DR Unless there is a court case or two to back it up, (general) you shouldn’t put too much weight on the EEOC’s guidelines.

  32. krysb*

    My company uses DiSC Assessments. I found my results are pretty accurate. However, we only use DiSC to help us communicate a work better together, since helps us see how we all have different motivators and styles for decision making and handling various situations.

  33. Stalker of HR Blogs*

    “therefore so do those of us who celebrate them because we’re uneducated heathens” – I’m curious if the flyer actually used those words? I say this because I grew up as one of JWs. I haven’t practiced for decades, but I can never remember any materials from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society using anything close to such language, so I’m wondering if it really said that or if the society has changed quite a bit over the past few decades (or perhaps she posted something from an external source). Either way, inappropriate, and I, too, prefer religion (and politics!) stay OUT of the workplace.

  34. Greg M.*

    #1 am I the only person who is reminded of the manager who forced his life coaching on people? Sometimes managers just need to mind their business. I am so with you, I hate this crap. Yes it’s crap, utter crap. The test maybe was developed by an expert but I’ll guarantee the company doesn’t have a psychologist on board reviewing the results so it’s just noise. I’m sorry but I’ve seen this kind of thing before, it’s “I have these 5 boxes and I need to know which one you fit in” and they will hammer and chisel you repeatedly until they can fit you in one of those because heaven forbid they actually just have to accept someone at face value. Sorry but I’ve had some bad personal experiences and I hate the feeling of being analyzed, the wide eyed look in their eye as they stare at the defective person going “what do you mean you don’t like….” and you just leave the conversation feeling awful and like crap because another person doesn’t get that you don’t have to understand someone to accept them.

  35. coffeeandpearls*

    Ugh, personality tests- a pet peeve of mine now that I am job searching. I recently took a DISC assessment as part of a interview process- and then I never heard from the company again! Not even a reject email! In my interview, the CEO said “I’m 99% sure that I’m going to bring you on, but first, take this test”. I’ve taken a DISC assessment/training before as part of a staff development day, so I know there is no “bad” result. People put too much stock in these things for hiring.

    1. amy*

      That’s exactly what I was going to say: “ugh, personality tests”.

      I actually left a job over this garbage 20-some years ago. It’s also really intrusive, and I knew it was time to go when a company officer was there pleasantly grilling this terrified, mousy person very, very far down in the ranks, wanting to pretend they were equals for the exercise. They weren’t equals, the economy sucked, and this company was famous for its routine purges. It was just awful. I quit that day.

    1. ArtK*

      The professor in a recent management class was big into Myers-Briggs. Apparently he’s toned it down some because there used to be a whole project on it, now it’s just one lecture and a question on the final. The temptation to tell him exactly why it is worthless was nearly overwhelming.

      The fact that it isn’t repeatable is just one of the issues with it. Given the two designations in each category, there should be a two-humped distribution in each, but there isn’t. That’s why many people end up on the cusp and flip back and forth between them depending on mood. The one test I was given was very annoying because they had “dichotomies” that weren’t opposites in the way that I use the words, so there are definitional problems.

      For people who think “oh, but it describes me so well,” beware of the “Barnum Effect.” That’s also why horoscopes seem so “right.”

  36. Mess*

    #3 I’m a marketer who coordinates headshots and it is one of the tasks I loathe. Here’s a bit about what it’s like for me!

    First of all, scheduling headshots for large groups of people is a logistical nightmare and if your team is anything like me they are way overextended already, so they probably already went into this process battle-scarred from herding cats, and all the last minute changes and demands.

    Then, when the proofs go out (we let people pick the shot they want edited) I have to steel myself for the litany of complaints. We do offer some minor photoshopping but also I get to spend a lot of time explaining what ‘reasonable’ is (teeth whitening? Easy. A little “smoothing” of the face? Fine. Trying to make you look 20 years younger? Not gonna happen).

    Then, add more time telling people why the selfie they took in their bathroom that they want to use instead does not fit the look, background or lighting of the formal, professionally done headshots on our web site.

    Finally, whenever the photographer comes in to do new people, I get to field the retake requests. If their photo is objectively terrible, I will allow a retake (or even encourage it in some cases) but 9/10 I feel like the photos are fine and people just have unrealistic expectations of what they look like. For the record, I freaking HATE my headshot but I deal. It’s actually very expensive to get headshots (depending on the market I am spending between $100 – 300 pp to get them done) so retakes are reserved for truly bad photos, very old photos or ones where the person has had a drastic appearance change (lost a lot of weight for instance)…or, sad to say, if you are a higher-up you are more likely to get a retake than a first year consultant.

    I think people assume the photos and this process just magically happens because it only takes 15 minutes to sit for one, but it’s a ton of work for both me and the photographer, and quickly adds up to be a giant time suck when you are dealing with dozens of people at a time. Not saying your team can’t be nice about it but I don’t think most people realize what a dreadful task this can be.

    1. Observer*

      I hear you. The really odd thing about the OP’s question is not that PR might say no. But, that they haven’t given a reason, and they *seemed upset*. It’s a bad idea not to give a stock reason (eg we need the same backgrounds for everyone). But, to get upset is just weird and out of line. There is no way it’s reasonable for “regular” staff to have any idea of all of this and your job burden is not their fault.

      So, while it’s reasonable for you to turn down a request that will make your life harder in a lot of cases, it is not reasonable to be upset at the person who asked.

  37. Noah*

    “They seemed pretty upset and haven’t gotten back to me.”

    I recommend OP #3 be less sensitive. Don’t assume “haven’t gotten back to me” is not seeming “pretty upset.” This just isn’t a high priority.

    1. Noah*

      Arg. Don’t assume “haven’t gotten back to me” IS seeming “pretty upset.” :-(

  38. Bea W*

    Some companies the phone systems just do that or they show a number that is not the person’s actual direct line. Since people don’t typically call themselves from work, people this happens to generally have no idea it’s an issue. Not a big deal!

  39. Cyberspace Dreamer*

    #2 I visit this site daily and truly appreciate the insight and positive approach Allison encourages and the comments as well. There are some very delicate topics discussed here and the candor of the questioners and the responses in the comments are truly heartwarming, keeping the humanity in the equation. I did not read every comment but I saw the reasonableness in the ones I did read and reaffirmed why this is one of my favorite websites. I have received a ton of encouragement here as I dealt with my own unique workplace challenges.

    I usually don’t respond to comments on this topic on the internet because getting in nameless, faceless flamewars is not a productive use of my time (I also don’t engage in face to face flamewars either since they are counterproductive). But I respect for the work Allison does here and the posters here so I will chime in. As one of JW’s, I can assure all that is not the way we encourage our members to conduct themselves as it relates to our beliefs even our view of people. While we do feel obligated to share our faith with those willing to listen (at the appropriate time and place), clear direction about respecting others, especially in the workplace should be followed. Well intended or not, some have crossed that line of respect and have needlessly caused offense, created problems for themselves and others and cast a negative light on our organization.

    That’s all I will chime in on, and keep up the great work and excellent comments.

  40. Kristine*

    #3 – A professional photographer can take great photos of everyone else and awful photos of one person (even of the most photogenic person in the office) – I’ve seen it happen. It’s one of life’s perplexing mysteries. It could be that Marketing is leery of causing a general onslaught of “change mine too”s but they seem to be a bit controlling about this. Perhaps the photographer has retained other shots that could work out better? Oftentimes Marketing departments do not pick the photo that the photographer would recommend. ;)

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